Carnegie researchers are developing new scientific approaches that integrate phylogenetic, chemical and spectral remote sensing perspectives - called Spectranomics - to map canopy function and biological diversity throughout tropical forests of the world.
Mapping the composition and chemistry of species in tropical forests is critical to understanding forest functions related to human use and climate change. However, high-resolution mapping of tropical forest canopies is challenging because traditional field, airborne and satellite measurements cannot easily measure the canopy chemical or taxonomic variation among species over large regions. New technology, such as the Carnegie Airborne Observatory is reaching performance levels that can help in monitoring tropical canopy chemistry and diversity from the air. However, the methods and taxonomically organized spectral-chemical libraries needed to apply the technology are needed.
In collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, World Wildlife Fund, and many other organizations, the Carnegie Institution is surveying tropical forest canopies worldwide. The goal is to develop new approaches that organize forest canopy species based on their leaf chemical and spectroscopic traits. The name Spectranomics expresses this new integration of leaf properties in an explicitly taxonomic approach that will advance airborne and satellite mapping techniques.
The team is developing the world's first Spectranomics Database to link the phylogenetic organization of tropical plants to their spectroscopic and chemical properties. The Spectranomics Database is a critical step required to advance regional and global biodiversity mapping efforts in the coming decades.