NI: Network for Monitoring Canopy Temperature of Forests - netCTF

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Geog Earth & Environ Sciences


Forests are a critical component of the global carbon cycle because they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and store the carbon in wood and soil. All living things in forests also produce carbon dioxide through respiration as an inevitable consequence of sustaining themselves and growing. At present, forests take in more carbon dioxide than they release, helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, but this 'free gift' from forests is not guaranteed to continue at its current rate indefinitely under climate change. As well as the carbon cycle, forests are also crucial in the water cycle as trees pump water from the soil into the atmosphere.

Leaves are the key part of the plant that regulates the exchange of gases (water, carbon dioxide) with the atmosphere. The pores in the leaf surface (stomata) are important for water loss and temperature control as well as the entry of carbon dioxide. Leaves exposed to direct sunlight can be more than ten degrees hotter than the air, even in temperate latitudes. Leaf temperature is important because many biological processes, including photosynthesis and respiration, are sensitive to temperature; very high temperatures can cause immediate and acute damage to leaves. Over the coming century, we expect carbon dioxide concentrations and air temperatures to continue to rise. When trees are grown in higher carbon dioxide concentrations, stomata close and limit water loss; this prevents the plant dehydrating but also reduces how much leaves can cool down. However, there is limited monitoring on forest canopy temperatures, and limiting understanding on how different species and forests in different climate zones are responding to climate change. This project will build a global network of researchers working to measure forest canopy temperatures using thermal infrared cameras, which will provide both greater understanding and also a crucial data resource for scientists in other disciplines to utilise.

The network will ensure that the data collected by separate groups are comparable, and aid data processing and analysis by providing clear guidance and tools. This is will encourage other researchers to take up use of thermal infrared cameras, the analysis of which can be challenging. Our network will monitor canopy temperatures at fourteen sites in tropical and temperate forests and savannah, in UK, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Panama, USA, and Ghana. The sites in the UK and Peru will be newly established by this project. Ten sites already have established data collection, while the final two sites (Australia, Ghana) are in development. Having data collected using cameras will allow us to understand not only how forests in different locations are behaving, but also whether and how different species within sites respond. The long-term nature of the project means that seasonal variation will be included, and the forest response to extreme events such as heat waves and droughts will be quantified. Future work will establish in more detail how changes to canopy temperature link to changes in forest carbon and water cycling. Our work providing insight into the response of forest canopies to climate change will inform models produced to assess the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, which are used to inform global climate change policies. Further, the current global emphasis on mitigating climate change through tree planting makes it crucial to assess how these trees will cope under future conditions.


10 25 50