Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A precise chemical fingerprint of the Amazon

12.09.2019

Drone-based monitoring system reveals important information on the health of the Amazon

In 2017, Scot Martin, the Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), envisioned a novel drone-based chemical monitoring system to track the health of the Amazon in the face of global climate change and human-caused deforestation and burning.


A drone flies over the Amazon, collecting samples of volatile organic compounds while smoke from a biomass fire can be seen in the distance.

(Image courtesy of Jianhuai Ye/ Harvard SEAS)

The project would monitor chemical signals emitted by plants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which help plants interact with organisms around them. Every species of plant emits a different VOC signature -- like a fingerprint -- which can change based on the season or if the plant is under duress from, for example, drought or flood. Monitoring and translating these signals can reveal how forest ecosystems respond to stress caused by climate change.

Traditionally, this kind of monitoring has been done from large platform towers that rise above the canopy of the forest.

... more about:
»Amazon »Amazonas »EMISSIONS »drones »ecosystems

"The Amazon contains thousands of small ecosystems, each with their own biodiversity and VOC signals," said Jianhuai Ye, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS. "Yet, there are less than 10 of these towers in the entire forest and they are all built in similar ecosystems where the soil can support large structures. As you can imagine, this leads to a lot of bias in the data."

Martin, Ye and the rest of the team, which includes collaborators from Amazonas State University (UEA) and the Amazonas State Research Support Foundation (FAPEAM), thought that drones could provide more accurate data of the forest.

Their first mission demonstrated how right they were.

In the summer of 2018, after years of prototyping, the researchers used their specially-designed drones to map the chemical fingerprint of two different ecosystems in central Amazonia. What they found overturned most present-day biosphere emissions models, which assumed that nearby ecosystems had the same emissions.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Plants and insects often communicate via chemical signaling, rather than visual or vocal signaling more common among animals," said Martin. "With our chemical sensors, we can better understand the current functioning of the forest and how it is changing with shifting regional climate, including a more frequent occurrence of fires in recent years in the central part of the Amazon."

In the central Amazon, sloping hills give rise to plateaus and water-logged valleys, dissected by streams and rivers. Each of these ecosystems -- the forests on the hillsides, the forests on the plateaus and in the valleys, and the vegetation along the water's edges -- has a different chemical fingerprint.

The research team flew drones over plateau forests and slope forests. They found that concentrations of a VOC called isoprene were more than 50 percent higher in the plateau forest than in the slope forest. Using this data, they developed a model that suggested that isoprene emissions doubled to tripled among these different forest sub-types. In the absence of measurements, previous emission models assumed no difference.

"This research highlights how little we understood forest heterogeneity," said Martin. "But drone-assisted technologies can help us understand and quantify VOC emissions in different, nearby ecosystems in order to better represent them in climate and air quality model simulations."

The researchers plan to sample ecosystems in water-logged valleys and along the rivers in Fall 2019 using a boat in the middle of the river as a platform for launching and retrieving the drones. They also plan to test a three-drone fleet operated in unison.

###

The research was co-authored by Carla E. Batista, Igor O. Ribeiro, Patricia C. Guimarães,Adan S. S. Medeiros, Rafael G. Barbosa, Rafael L. Oliveira, Sergio Duvoisin Jr., Kolby J. Jardine, Dasa Gu, Alex B. Guenther, Karena A. McKinney, Leila D. Martins, and Rodrigo A. F. Souza.

It was supported by the Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund, The Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES), the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), a Senior Visitor Research Grant of the Amazonas State Research Foundation (FAPEAM), the Postdoctoral Program in Environmental Chemistry of the Dreyfus Foundation, and the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences of the National Science Foundation.

Media Contact

Leah Burrows
lburrows@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-1351

 @hseas

http://www.seas.harvard.edu/ 

Leah Burrows | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2019/09/precise-chemical-fingerprint-of-amazon

Further reports about: Amazon Amazonas EMISSIONS drones ecosystems

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Shrinking of Greenland's glaciers began accelerating in 2000, research finds
12.12.2019 | Ohio State University

nachricht One-third of recent global methane increase comes from tropical Africa
11.12.2019 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Cheers! Maxwell's electromagnetism extended to smaller scales

More than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the publication of James Clerk Maxwell's "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" (1865). What would our lives be without this publication?

It is difficult to imagine, as this treatise revolutionized our fundamental understanding of electric fields, magnetic fields, and light. The twenty original...

Im Focus: Highly charged ion paves the way towards new physics

In a joint experimental and theoretical work performed at the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, an international team of physicists detected for the first time an orbital crossing in the highly charged ion Pr⁹⁺. Optical spectra were recorded employing an electron beam ion trap and analysed with the aid of atomic structure calculations. A proposed nHz-wide transition has been identified and its energy was determined with high precision. Theory predicts a very high sensitivity to new physics and extremely low susceptibility to external perturbations for this “clock line” making it a unique candidate for proposed precision studies.

Laser spectroscopy of neutral atoms and singly charged ions has reached astonishing precision by merit of a chain of technological advances during the past...

Im Focus: Ultrafast stimulated emission microscopy of single nanocrystals in Science

The ability to investigate the dynamics of single particle at the nano-scale and femtosecond level remained an unfathomed dream for years. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that nanotechnology and femtoscience gradually merged together and the first ultrafast microscopy of individual quantum dots (QDs) and molecules was accomplished.

Ultrafast microscopy studies entirely rely on detecting nanoparticles or single molecules with luminescence techniques, which require efficient emitters to...

Im Focus: How to induce magnetism in graphene

Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...

Im Focus: Electronic map reveals 'rules of the road' in superconductor

Band structure map exposes iron selenide's enigmatic electronic signature

Using a clever technique that causes unruly crystals of iron selenide to snap into alignment, Rice University physicists have drawn a detailed map that reveals...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Weizmann physicists image electrons flowing like water

12.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Revealing the physics of the Sun with Parker Solar Probe

12.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique to determine protein structures may solve biomedical puzzles

12.12.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>