June 24, 2011

CTFS-SIGEO Colleagues Work Towards Real-time Automated Monitoring of Forests and Environmental Change

Workshop participants, back row: Ned Friedman (Arnold Arboretum), Jon Chappell (SAO), Carlos Corrada (UPR), Stuart Davies (CTFS-SIGEO), Christopher Thomas (Oregon State), Biff Bermingham (STRI), Cassidy Rankine (UAlberta), Jess Parker (SERC), Matteo Detto (CTFS-SIGEO), Bill Munger (Harvard), Evan DeLucia (UIllinois), Michael Schindlinger (Leslie), Frank Levinson, Rich Camili (WHOI), Larry Madin (WHOI); front row: David Kenfack (CTFS-SIGEO), Lewis Girod (MIT), Erin Kurten (CTFS-AA), Helene Muller-Landau, Lucy Hutyra (BU), Charlie Harvey (MIT), Scott Gallagher (WHOI).

On June 13-14, twenty-three engineers, environmental scientists and ecologists met at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University to discuss the potential for a standardized instrumentation platform for CTFS-SIGEO sites around the world. The proposed instrumentation platform would provide real-time data on tree growth and health, animal sounds and movements, and climatic and other environmental fluctuations. Real-time data of this sort will provide a powerful addition to how CTFS attempts to link fluctuations in physical and environmental conditions with forest change.

Frank Levinson opened the meeting with his vision for developing a forest ecology “tailplate” – a standardized infrastructure that individual investigators could depend on to easily replicate studies across sites.

Participants gave presentations on a wide variety of potential platform components (including meteorological sensors, automated dendrometer bands, eddy flux systems, cameras and hyperspectral sensors, sound recording equipment and associated analysis programs) and the scientific questions these would address. Participants from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) presented on similar instrumentation initiatives for oceanographic measurements, and relevant lessons for developing a terrestrial platform.

There was wide agreement that with recent technological advances, the time is right to develop and deploy such a standardized instrumentation platform for CTFS-SIGEO sites. Standardized, long-term measurements across CTFS-SIGEO sites would enable robust comparisons among sites, quantification of interannual variation, and better detection of any long-term change.