Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study Shows More Shrubbery in a Warming World

Scientists have used satellite data from NASA-built Landsat missions to confirm that more than 20 years of warming temperatures in northern Quebec, Canada, have resulted in an increase in the amount and extent of shrubs and grasses.

"For the first time, we've been able to map this change in detail, and it's because of the spatial resolution and length-of-record that you can get with Landsat," says Jeff Masek, the program's project scientist. He's based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Masek and his co-authors will present their study at the American Geophysical Meeting in San Francisco on Friday, Dec. 9.

The study, focusing on Quebec, is one of the first to present a detailed view of how warmer temperatures are influencing plant distribution and density in northern areas of North America.

"Unlike the decline of sea ice, which is a dramatic effect that we're seeing as a result of global warming, the changes in vegetation have been subtle," Masek says.

Computer models predict the northward expansion of vegetation due to warmer temperatures. "They predict a dramatic change over the next 100 years, and people have been wondering why we weren't seeing these changes already, Masek says.

The difference between the computer predictions and real-life vegetation may have to do with all the other factors that come into play with plants, like the availability of water and sunlight; the type of terrain; competition from other plants for soil, resources and space; and plant predators like caribou.

"The warm temperatures are only part of the equation," says Doug Morton, the Principal Investigator of the study and a researcher at NASA Goddard.

Scientists track vegetation with satellites by measuring the 'greenness' of a study area. Morton says previous studies used yearly compilations, making it difficult to determine if the increase in 'greenness' was due to expansion of vegetation cover or if what scientists were seeing was instead just the effect of a longer growing season.

For this study, the scientists focused only on 'greenness' measurements during the peak summer growing seasons from 1986 to 2010.

By using Landsat's higher, 30-meter (~98 foot) resolution and viewing the same area at the same time for 23 years, Masek and his colleagues were able to track the areas as they continued to show more 'greenness' over the years. "It makes sense," Masek says. "This is how shrub encroaching occurs. They increase in size, they increase in density, and then they move northward."

In contrast to the expansion of shrubs, the scientists found little evidence for 'greenness' trends in forested areas, suggesting that forest response to recent warming may be occurring more slowly. Masek adds that it shows how getting the big picture of warming's effect on forests will rely on continued observations from new U.S. missions that extend and enhance these data records.

The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.

For more information on Landsat, visit: Aries Keck
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Aries Keck | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>