The National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration has awarded Assistant Professor of Geography Mike Loranty a grant for his project “Disentangling Tree and Shrub Phenology in Siberian Taiga Ecosystems.”
The funding will cover Loranty’s travel to the Northeast Scientific Station in Chersky, Russia, where he will monitor the timing — or phenology — of leaf emergence in the spring and senescence in the fall for trees and shrubs.
Loranty will look specifically for recent effects of global warming on the timing of leaf emergence and the duration of the growing season in forests with varying amounts of tree cover.
Growing season length has a substantial impact on vegetation’s influence on the global climate. The growing season time period can significantly alter atmospheric carbon, water, and energy dynamics.
While satellites are frequently used to monitor the canopy phenology of dense forests with constant tree cover, lower tree density makes it difficult to determine any differences in phenology between trees and shrubs in open forests remotely.
These disparities are important for understanding the responses of ecosystems to continued climate change. So Loranty will attempt to quantify the differences in canopy phenology for trees and shrubs — “disentangling” them — using near surface optical measurements, vegetation inventories, and satellite images.
The results of this study will improve understanding of the ways in which Siberian larch forests will respond to global climate in the future.
Read more about Loranty’s research and his recent expedition across the Alaskan tundra with Team Viper in the winter issue of the Colgate Scene.