Why the answer to climate change lies in data

Climate change and biodiversity

Over recent decades, satellites have transformed our capacity to classify terrestrial ecosystems across the globe. And this has increasingly become a key part of the conservation scientist’s toolbox, with multispectral images and remote sensing radar able to provide data down to a resolution of 3,7 meters – sharp enough to distinguish individual trees! But they cannot tell us what’s going on below the canopy surface, something which would be crucial to know.

At the Crowther Lab, we aim to learn how natural ecosystems, such as soil and tree biodiversity, absorb and store or emit carbon so that we are able to better predict and fight climate change. We work interdisciplinary and across specialisms, approaching the most important questions from different angles in order to gain a holistic view. With the understanding that climate change and biodiversity are intrinsically linked, we seek to better understand the global forest system – above and below the ground.

Therefore, our lab is enhancing climate predictions with real, ground-sourced data containing over 30 million measurements of individual trees as well as 120,000 measurements of soil communities around the world collected through our global network comprised of thousands of ecologists. This empirical, bottom-up approach is improving our understanding of global biodiversity and carbon storage.

Satellite imagery and ground-sourced data

With the latest developments in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, we are now at the dawn of a big data revolution that can transform our understanding of the living world. By pairing top-down satellite imagery with our ground-sourced datasets of forest trees and biodiversity – the largest in the world – we are able create interactive maps on our Global Ecological Monitoring platform (GEM). These maps provide critical layers of ecological data (both above- and below-ground) for any polygon of latitude and longitude coordinates on Earth, providing insights that we never thought we’d have.

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Author: Shirley