What do millions of tree measurements say about chimate change?
STRI/DICYT The number of tree diameter measurements made across the Smithsonian’s Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS)- ForestGEO network is over five million. For Kristina Anderson- Teixeira, who leads the network’s ecosystems and climate initiative, the wealth of data presents a unique opportunity. “I’m working to leverage our data to understand the forests’ interactions with the climate system and how these forests are likely to respond to climate change,” said Teixeira during a recent visit to Panama’s Barro Colorado Island.
Anderson-Teixeira, a joint staff scientist at STRI and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, is particularly interested in how trees of different sizes respond to environmental variation and in turn affect ecosystem level processes. “For example, how do trees of different sizes respond to drought, and what can we learn about how forests might respond to changing aridity patterns associated with climate change?” are questions that are part of her research. She hopes to learn more about what changes are occurring in forests and the mechanisms driving change.
As a network-wide researcher, Anderson-Teixeira’s job is piece together big-picture forest data from the 59 ForestGEO plots around the globe. “Research across the network has shown these forests are changing,” she said, pointing to shifting climate, increased nitrogen deposition and habitat fragmentation. “Of course, sorting out what’s happening where and why is a very complex story but we have the kind of network where we can do that.”