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Tracking Seasonal Change Using Digital Photography

February 18, 2014
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A growing number of researchers, including Harvard Forest collaborator Andrew Richardson, are using automated digital cameras to study seasonal change in the forest canopy. As climate warms, the timing of leaf emergence in the spring and leaf-drop in autumn are in rapid flux, increasing scientists' need to precisely pinpoint and follow these seasonal changes.

In a new paper in Ecological Applications, a team of Harvard Forest colleagues, together with students from the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program, compared five years of data that characterize seasonal change at the Harvard Forest: automated digital imagery, ground observations, canopy leaf samples, leaf area index measurements, and eddy-covariance estimates of gross ecosystem photosynthesis.

Their results show that digital webcameras capture the spring and autumn transition dates well, but that seasonal shifts in leaf- and canopy-level properties require additional interpretation, which they address with a new computer model.

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