Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Satellites Show Drought May Take Toll on Congo Rainforest

24.04.2014

A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade.

The study, led by Liming Zhou of University at Albany, State University of New York, shows between 2000 and 2012 the decline affected an increasing amount of forest area and intensified. The research, published Wednesday in Nature, is one of the most comprehensive observational studies to explore the effects of long-term drought on the Congo rainforest using several independent satellite sensors.


In the Congo rainforest, a browning trend (brown) dominates smaller areas that show a greening trend (green) during April, May and June each year from 2000 to 2012.

Image Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

"It's important to understand these changes because most climate models predict tropical forests may be under stress due to increasing severe water shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century climate," Zhou said.

Scientists use the satellite-derived "greenness" of forest regions as one indicator of a forest's health. While this study looks specifically at the impact of a persistent drought in the Congo region since 2000, researchers say that a continued drying trend might alter the composition and structure of the Congo rainforest, affecting its biodiversity and carbon storage.

Previous research used satellite-based measurements of vegetation greenness to investigate changes in the Amazon rainforest, notably the effects of severe short-term droughts in 2005 and 2010. Until now, little attention has been paid to African rainforests, where ground measurements are even sparser than in the Amazon and where droughts are less severe but last longer.

To clarify the impact of long-term drought on the Congo rainforest, Zhou and colleagues set out to see whether they could detect a trend in a satellite measure of vegetation greenness called the Enhanced Vegetation Index. This measure is developed from data produced by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite. The scientists focused their analysis on intact, forested regions in the Congo basin during the months of April, May and June each year – the first of the area's two peak rainy and growing seasons each year.

The study found a gradually decreasing trend in Congo rainforest greenness, sometimes referred to as "browning," suggesting a slow adjustment to the long-term drying trend. This is in contrast to the more immediate response seen in the Amazon, such as large-scale tree mortality, brought about by more episodic drought events.

The browning of the forest canopy is consistent with observed decreases in the amount of water available to plants, whether that is in the form of rainfall, water stored in the ground, water in near-surface soils, or water within the vegetation.

These changes in available water were detected in part with NASA satellites including the NASA/JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, NASA's Quick Scatterometer (QuikScat), and NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center.

Combining measurements from different sensors has given us more confidence in the results of the MODIS data and provided us with insights into the environmental and physiological mechanisms of the browning observed by the MODIS data," said co-author Sassan Saatchi of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Climate factors known to affect vegetation growth were also in line with the observed browning. Land surface temperatures, for example, were observed to increase over most of the study area. Decreased cloudiness allowed more solar radiation to reach the plants, which typically promotes photosynthesis, but in this case it likely posed an extra stress on the plants from the resulting depletion of soil moisture.

"Forests of the Congo basin are known to be resilient to moderate climate change because they have been exposed to dry conditions in the past few hundred years," Saatchi said. "However, the recent climate anomalies as a result of climate change and warming of the Atlantic Ocean have created severe droughts in the tropics, causing major impacts on forests."

How the changes affect individual plant species in the area remains to be seen. For example, drier conditions may favor deciduous trees at the expense of evergreen trees.

"Our assessment is a step toward an improved understanding of how African rainforests respond to increasing drought," Zhou said. "We need to consider the complex range of processes affecting different tropical rainforest species before we can fully assess the future resilience of tropical forests."

The other authors for this research include Yuhong Tian at I.M. Systems Group, Inc. at the Center for Satellite Applications and Research, the science arm of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Satellite and Information Service; Ranga Myneni at Boston University; Philippe Ciais at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France; Yi Y. Liu at University of New South Wales, Australia; Shilong Piao at Peking University, China; Haishan Chen at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, China; Eric Vermote of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; and Conghe Song and Taehee Hwang at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

Feature Link: 

http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

For more information about NASA programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

Kathryn Hansen
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-286-1046
kathryn.h.hansen@nasa.gov

Alan Buis       
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474
alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

Kathryn Hansen | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/april/nasa-satellites-show-drought-may-take-toll-on-congo-rainforest/#.U1gg0BAUOVq

Further reports about: Amazon Climate Laboratory NASA Propulsion Rainforest forests measurements satellite

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Juvenile Shale Gas in Sweden - Tectonics and deep biosphere
04.05.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

nachricht NASA satellite sees Tropical Cyclone Quang making landfall in Western Australia
04.05.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected

Discovered by high school research team

A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the National Science Foundation's...

Im Focus: Erosion, landslides and monsoon across the Himalaya

Scientists from Nepal, Switzerland and Germany was now able to show how erosion processes caused by the monsoon are mirrored in the sediment load of a river crossing the Himalaya.

In these days, it was again tragically demonstrated that the Himalayas are one of the most active geodynamic regions of the world. Landslides belong to the...

Im Focus: Through the galaxy by taxi - The Dream Chaser Space Utility Vehicle

A world-class prime systems integrator and electronic systems provider known for its rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is currently developing a new space transportation system called the Dream Chaser.

The ultimate aim is to construct a multi-mission-capable space utility vehicle, while accelerating the overall development process for this critical capability...

Im Focus: High-tech textiles – more than just clothes

Today, textiles are used for more than just clothes or bags – they are high tech materials for high-tech applications. High-tech textiles must fulfill a number of functions and meet many requirements. That is why the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC dedicated some major developing work to this most intriguing research area. The result can now be seen at Techtextil trade show in Frankfurt from 4 to 7 May. On display will be novel textile-integrated sensors, a unique multifunctional coating system for textiles and fibers, and textile processing of glass, carbon, and ceramics fibers to fiber preforms.

Thin materials and new kinds of sensors now make it possible to integrate silicone elastomer sensors in textiles. They are suitable for applications in medical...

Im Focus: Fast and Accurate 3-D Imaging Technique to Track Optically-Trapped Particles

KAIST researchers published an article on the development of a novel technique to precisely track the 3-D positions of optically-trapped particles having complicated geometry in high speed in the April 2015 issue of Optica.

Daejeon, Republic of Korea, April 23, 2015--Optical tweezers have been used as an invaluable tool for exerting micro-scale force on microscopic particles and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

HHL Energy Conference on May 11/12, 2015: Students Discuss about Decentralized Energy

23.04.2015 | Event News

“Developing our cities, preserving our planet”: Nobel Laureates gather for the first time in Asia

23.04.2015 | Event News

HHL's Entrepreneurship Conference on FinTech

13.04.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

World’s fastest algorithm for recognising regular DNA sequences

04.05.2015 | Life Sciences

Interzum 2015: WPC furniture with low flammability

04.05.2015 | Trade Fair News

Improved detection of radio waves from space

04.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>