University of Alberta biologists use light spectroscopy to study the functional diversity and evolutionary history of plants
Biologists get a new look at plant biodiversity and function with new imaging technology developed at the University of Alberta.
An example of the type of images captured by the imaging spectrometer. By exploring the colours of light reflected by the plants, researchers are able to identify subtle differences in plant function. Red represents sun induced fluorescence, green is chlorophyll content, and blue is the photochemical reflectance index, indicating plant stress and highlighting differences in photosynthetic performance
Credit: Ran Wang
"Biodiversity and ecosystem function are both changing with human disturbance and climate change, and our research provides a new tool for assessing these changes and renewed hope for improved environmental monitoring," explained John Gamon, professor in the Departments of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Biological Sciences and co-author in the study. "The information derived from this technology provides a practical way to address biodiversity and ecosystem function over large landscapes."
The method uses an imaging spectrometer, similar to a conventional camera but with a thousand colours, mounted on a moving robotic cart to measure the spectra of light reflected from plants in visible, near-infrared, and short-wave infrared regions to measure differences in plant traits. Differences in reflected radiation allow scientists to not only see more than what the naked eye allows, but also to sample both the functional diversity and evolutionary history of individual plants in the environment.
This work is of particular importance because, as was noted in a previous study, 2050 is expected to see a loss in world economic productivity as a result of global warming threatening one-fifth of vascular plant species. The technological advance presented in this study gives researchers a new tool to monitor biodiversity, combat these threats, and raise awareness of biodiversity importance.
Traditional methods of observing plant biodiversity require extensive time, money, and biologists in the field with in-depth knowledge of plant species to identify them. However, using remote sensing to observe and assess biodiversity, allows researchers to not only observe and cover much larger areas--including areas that may be hard to reach--but to reveal and observe the differences in plant diversity and function more quickly.
"To build a strong argument for protecting and restoring biodiversity globally, it is important to quantify the services biodiversity provides for us, including nutrition, clean water and air, safety, health and enjoyment," wrote Anna Schweiger, lead author of the study, in a blog post.
The technology was originally developed by John Gamon and Ran Wang, a former UAlberta PhD student as a part of his thesis work.
"The interdisciplinary nature of the research is key," said Gamon, in note of the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the study.
"Remote sensing--detecting the interaction of electromagnetic radiation and matter--is a fascinating place where physics meets plant physiology and ecology, and different plants display a range of different solutions to this, allowing us to detect plant diversity.
"Here at UAlberta, we developed new ways of measuring these interactions involving new imaging spectrometers and robotic carts, both of which were instrumental in this study. Taxonomic, physiological and evolutionary perspectives, spectral data analysis, image processing and a lot of powerful statistics, were combined in this work, a good example of team science."
The paper, "Plant spectral diversity integrates functional and phylogenetic components of biodiversity and predicts ecosystem function," was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution (doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0551-1).
Katie Willis | EurekAlert!
Algae-killing viruses spur nutrient recycling in oceans
18.07.2019 | Rutgers University
How are pollen distributed in the air?
18.07.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Troposphärenforschung e. V.
Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.
Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...
Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.
Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...
For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.
Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...
An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".
The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...
An interdisciplinary research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has built platinum nanoparticles for catalysis in fuel cells: The new size-optimized catalysts are twice as good as the best process commercially available today.
Fuel cells may well replace batteries as the power source for electric cars. They consume hydrogen, a gas which could be produced for example using surplus...
24.06.2019 | Event News
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
18.07.2019 | Health and Medicine
18.07.2019 | Life Sciences
18.07.2019 | Health and Medicine