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Exploring tree crowns by crane

GFZ researchers, together with colleagues from Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, are investigating the health of trees from above crane in order to improve remote sensing.

How can the health status of different tree species in mixed forests be better identified with the help of aerial and satellite images? Is this even possible in time to intervene? A 45-meter-high construction crane located in the middle of a mixed forest in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is helping to answer these questions. The crane hoists people and measuring equipment above the treetops to obtain comparative data. The aim is to improve forest monitoring.

The crane is part of a cross-state research network that has been funded by the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR) since the end of 2022. In the research project called FeMoPhys, the Brandenburg State Forestry Office (LFB), the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania State Forestry Office, the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ), the LUP company from Potsdam, the University of Greifswald and the Technical University of Berlin are working together.

The test site is located near the town of Demmin in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Each individual crown of the different tree species - beech, oak, spruce, larch, Douglas fir - can be reached in any position via a personnel conveyor cage on the crane boom. Researchers then measure a variety of parameters at airy heights, the contents of needles and leaves, such as proteins, phenols, tannins, chlorophyll and carotenoids, the density of the crowns and the leaf water content, as well as photosynthesis parameters such as transpiration and assimilation rates. In addition, meteorological measurements, soil moisture and sap flow will be used to record water turnover in the ecosystem. In this way, the researchers want to clarify a question, which has been open since the emergence of remote sensing methods, i.e. whether physiological processes internal to trees can be detected at all via external physical sensors of spectral on-site and remote sensing.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's Minister for Climate Protection, Agriculture, Rural Areas and Environment, Till Backhaus, and Brandenburg's Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Climate Protection, Axel Vogel, have now informed themselves about the research work directly at the crane site. Vogel said: "The long-standing results of the forest condition survey can now be supplemented by modern remote sensing methods. The findings here are also transferable to other federal states." Till Backhaus added: "In times of climate change, scientifically sound findings on the development of our forests are of central importance. Especially here at the site, it becomes clear that science is not an end in itself, but brings great benefits to society."

The importance of the project was also underlined by Benedikt Wilhelm from the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR): "This project is particularly valuable because methods for monitoring the vitality development of mixed forests are being advanced here." The FNR is supporting the project with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. GFZ project manager Sibylle Itzerott said the project "has ambitious scientific goals and is an excellent example of close cooperation between research institutions and the relevant departments of the German states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg, as well as the FNR."


  • More information:

Project website:  FeMoPhys - Development of a remote sensing-based monitoring procedure based on a physiologically founded vitality assessment of main tree species in mixed stands

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