U researchers to monitor ecosystems from the sky

Katelyn Faulks


University of Minnesota researchers are launching a study to see if they can measure ecosystems and species diversity from the sky.

Ecology, evolution and behavior associate professor Jeannine Cavender-Bares will be leading the research team, which received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation and NASA, according to a University news release.

Because conditions on the ground tend to change quickly, the researchers aim to create a method to maintain and track changes in ecosystems more efficiently and accurately by using remote sensing through satellites or airplanes.

Remote sensing will collect reflected light from plants, according to an announcement on the College of Biological Sciences website. Then, the researchers can investigate plant diversity, soil diversity and more.

Testing will begin in May at the University’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, according to the release. Researchers will try to prove if they can accurately detect plant diversity from a distance there.

The research, EEB professor Sarah Hobbie said in the release, will enable researchers to remotely sense diversity levels and examine how diversity variation affects ecosystem processes, like decomposition in soils.

“In the face of global change, monitoring biodiversity and changes in biodiversity is important,” Cavender-Bares said. “Our goal is to understand the mechanisms that allow us to detect biodiversity from the sky, and to develop methods that can be applied globally.”