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Field Notes: Satellite Images Related to Canopy Data Helps Predict Forest Response to Drought

Posted by: Judith Edwards
May 18, 2016

Dr. Tim Assal is a spatial ecologist interested in ecosystem dynamics, specifically the impacts of drought on mortality of forest ecosystems.

In his most recent publication, “Spatial and temporal trends of drought effects in a heterogeneous semi-arid forest ecosystem,” Dr. Assal analyzed 22 years of Landsat satellite data to understand the way that forest dynamics change as a result of drought conditions.



(Images by Tim Assal)

Satellite images were used as a metric for plant moisture content, and on-ground measurements of LAI were used to determine how canopy moisture is related to canopy coverage. 

According to Dr. Assal, “a crux of our study was to connect the condition of vegetation on the ground with recent satellite observations before we could backcast a model to assess vegetation trends. Data we collected from the CI-110 allowed us to assess this relationship."

Their study showed that there is, in fact, a linear relationship between plant moisture data as seen from satellite imagery and the amount of living plant material on the ground.

Dr. Assal helps make his research more accessible to a larger audience by regularly sharing his work on his blog. A summary of his 2016 publication provides a new perspective on how forest systems respond to drought stress over time, and their historical data aids in the prediction of how sensitive regions might respond to climate change projections. 

You can read a summary of this study on his blog, or access the full publication online

To learn more about how the CI-110 Plant Canopy Imager is being used by researchers around the world, please visit our Applications page.

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Judith Edwards

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