Environment

Cyberforests help scientists predict the effects of climate change

Cyberforests help scientists p...
The forest simulator was developed partly from footage captured by aerial drones
The forest simulator was developed partly from footage captured by aerial drones
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The forest simulator was developed partly from footage captured by aerial drones
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The forest simulator was developed partly from footage captured by aerial drones

Considering that it takes hundreds ofyears for forests to grow, it can be difficult to assess how they'llbe affected by climate change in the long term. To address thatproblem, researchers at Washington State University have created theworld's first computer simulation capable of growing realisticforests, using the model to predict how things like frequentwildfires or drought might impact forests across North America.

The new computer simulation allowsscientists to grow a virtual forest over the period of a few weeks.Known as LES (after the Russian word for forest), the systemsimulates the growth of 100 x 100 m (330 x 330 ft) areas ofvegetation, that are then scaled up to simulate entire forests. It'smore complex than any previous systems, simulating both canopystructures and intricate root systems for each tree. Each leafcompetes for sunlight, while beneath the virtual earth, theorganisms' roots compete for water resources.

In order to ensure that the modelaccurately represents real-life forests, the researchers turned tothe US Department of Agriculture's Forest Inventory and Analysisprogram, as well as other forestry databases. They also worked withthe US Forest Service to fly drones over and around forests, imagingthem to gather further information and develop 3D models, allowingfor more accurate vegetation and tree distribution.

The team believes that LES couldgreatly improve our understanding of exactly how climate change iseffecting forests, and how those changes will evolve over time. Theresearchers hope that the system will allow forest managers todetermine the species of trees, as well as ecological factors, thatare central to forests re-establishing themselves are being disturbedby events such as wildfires.

"The fear is that drier conditions inthe future will prevent forests in places like Washington fromre-establishing themselves after a clear-cut or wildfire," saidWashington State University's Nikolay Strigul. "This could lead toincreasing amounts of once-forested areas converted to desert. Ourmodel can help predict if forests are at risk of desertification orother climate change-related processes and identift what can be doneto conserve these systems."

The researchers published their work inthe journal Royal Society Open Science.

Source: Washington State University

6 comments
jgb
Are you serious? It will go as badly as the temp simulation program, wrong on all forecasts. Computers only work with what you give them and are unreliable to forecast something with so many variables.
Lamar Havard
Aside from 'climate change' being a huge farce, you know what you get with more CO2? Better-growing flora producing more oxygen for US. Now, if there WAS a problem, which there is not, it's solved. Let us move on to World Peace...for a few MORE LOLs.
woz
"Our model can help predict if forests are at risk of desertification or other climate change-related processes and identift (sic) what can be done to conserve these systems." Actually, based on the complete FAIL of every "climate-change" or "global-warming" model-derived prediction so far published, I simply don't believe either: a. that your model can; or, b. that your model needs to! PLEASE Gizmag, stick to what you do so well. Keep us abreast of the many fascinating scientific, engineering and mechanical discoveries and developments that is your main game, and stay away from the pretend-science of climate change.
Bob Flint
Hundreds of years for a forest to grow??? Leave a field alone and in twenty years you will have a forest, what are you cultivating giant sequoias?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Plants warm the Earth for themselves by shrinking high thermal emittance ground and pumping ground water into the air. Desser tification rejects more heat to space and is associated with an ice age.
Robert in Vancouver
All the global warming computer models predicting the end of the world unless we pay huge carbon taxes have been wrong for the past 20 years. All of them. Garbage in. Garbage out.