Water is an essential element for all living things. Understanding the dynamics of water in trees is crucial for understanding the consequences of climate change and altered water availability for forest ecosystems. This study, which is a product of a joint research project with Samuli Junttila PhD, and Professor Masato Katoh of Shinshu University's Institute for Mountain Science and others demonstrates a new laser scanning based method that can be used to monitor changes in leaf water content of tree communities.
Lasers can be used to measure and monitor the leaf water content of trees and plants, because the reflection of laser light at the shortwave infrared region is changed due to varying leaf water content. For many decades prior, the health of trees and their water content had to be measured by destruction or subjective visual estimation of the trees . This new technique would enable scientists to monitor changes in the altering global hydrological cycles more effectively. By understanding the dynamics of water availability, drought-induced mortality of trees can be better anticipated.
The ultimate goal of this research is to develop new tools that allow the monitoring of leaf water content at various spatial and temporal scales (from individual leaves to global scale), use this information to incorporate leaf water dynamics into global models of tree mortality and gain new insights into the functioning of ecosystems under changing climate. Researcher Samuli Junttila hopes to understand in detail how water is moving from the soil through trees to the atmosphere.
For more information on the study, please read: "Terrestrial laser scanning intensity captures diurnal variation in leaf water potential" in the Journal, Remote Sensing of Environment Samli Junttila, T. Holtta, E. Puttonen, M. Katoh, M. Vastaranta, H. Kaartinen, M. Holopainen, H. Hyyppa