Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Desertification alters regional ecosystem climate interactions

19.01.2005


Using advanced remote-sensing techniques from a U-2 surveillance plane and field studies, scientists from the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology have for the first time determined large-scale interactions between ecosystems and the climate during the process of desertification. The study, to be published in the January 2005 issue of Global Change Biology, is a milestone both for the new methods employed and for understanding what is happening as agricultural and grazing lands change into desert--a top environmental worry of the United Nations.


This image shows how spectral data, information contained in reflected light, obtained from the NASA Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) is organized into "data cubes. " It also shows what the reflecting light reveals as the sensor collects data from the canopy to the soil. The different types of vegetation are grasslands, transition areas, and desert shrublands in the Northern Chihuahua region of New Mexico. (Image used with permission from Global Change Biology. )



"Grazing is the major form of land use on the planet, with the dry, semi-arid, and sub-humid regions supporting most of it throughout the world," explained Dr. Gregory Asner, lead author at Carnegie. "Some of these regions are turning into unusable desert so quickly that the United Nations has put the problem at the top of its environmental agenda. The challenge for science--to understand what is happening to ecosystems during desertification--has been enormous because the areas are so vast it is impossible to study the processes at the field level alone. Our five-year project in the Northern Chihuahua region of New Mexico has successfully shown how the NASA Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS), aboard a NASA U-2, can be used to analyze the vegetation and soil changes in response to rain variation over large areas. I believe that the technique could become a standard for future global desertification studies."

Typically, remote-sensing for ecological research looks at the greenness of the top layer of vegetation, which is used to determine the amount of plant growth, or net primary production (NPP). NPP data are useful for understanding the global carbon cycle as plants breath in and lock up the greenhouse gas CO2 . NPP data, though, are not as important as are the changes in the type and distribution of vegetation as an area transitions into desert. Using the (AVIRIS), the scientists are able to analyze the physical structure of ecosystems including the live and dead plants. The data are viewed in 3-dimensions at very high resolution and can give a much broader picture of the processes at work, including carbon cycling and other chemical and biological activities.


The entire study region was about 500 square miles (800 square kilometers). Each data pixel covered an area 62 feet by 62 feet (19 meters) and looked at the ecosystem-climate interactions of grasslands, transitional terrain, and desert-shrub landscape over a five-year period. The researchers made their measurements after wintertime and summer monsoonal rains, which varied in intensity by more than 300%. "We found that a long-term decrease in litter cover is the most evident sign when an area begins to change to desert." stated Asner. "More bare soil areas and changes in green vegetation are also apparent, but they are secondary. Up to now the scientific community has focused on bare soil much more than the loss of natural litter as dry areas become desert. We also noted how the different vegetation types changed in response to the variation in rain. As areas exhibited more desert-like vegetation, there was a shift in plant responses from summer to winter precipitation events." he continued.

Dr. Christopher Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology, commented on the research: "Desertification affects the future prospects for hundreds of millions of people. Like many of the most important environmental problems of our day, desertification involves complicated interactions among climate, vegetation, and human actions. Unraveling those interactions will provide the keys to solving the problem. The techniques developed for this study open desertification and a wide range of other environmental problems to detailed analysis. I’m very excited about the potential for this work from the Department of Global Ecology to make a real difference in peoples’ futures," he concluded.

Emily Davis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com
http://www.CarnegieInstitution.org
http://asnerlab.stanford.edu/index.shtml

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars

22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>