Study forecasts growth rates of loblolly pine trees | 7/12/2018 | Staff
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The ability to predict weather patterns has helped us make clothing choices and travel plans, and even saved lives. Now, researchers in Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment are using similar predictive methods to forecast the growth of trees.

In a study published in Ecological Applications, researchers used ecological forecasting to predict how changes in temperature, water, and concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere in the Southeastern United States may affect the future growth rates of trees.

Paper - Efforts - Projects - US - Department

The paper brings together efforts from two projects funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the first, known as PINEMAP, hundreds of researchers collected forest growth data from the past 35 years and developed mathematical models to quantify how pine forests may respond to climate change.

The second project, led by R. Quinn Thomas, assistant professor of forest dynamics and ecosystem modeling in Virginia Tech's Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, focused on quantifying uncertainties in how climate models predict how forest and agricultural ecosystems, along with decisions like the timing of crop or forest harvest rotations, influence climate temperature and precipitation patterns.

Thomas - Similarities - Projects - Way - Data

Thomas noticed similarities between these two projects and the way weather data can help meteorologists predict future weather patterns. This led him to develop a new research project to forecast forest productivity through the middle of the 21st century.

"I realized that we could use the past to inform the future," Thomas said. "Historical observations on tree growth and weather can be fed into a mathematical model describing how forests grow, making it more accurate over time. This is similar to how weather forecasts are updated as new weather data becomes available."

Thomas - Team - Members - Department—master - Student

Thomas and team members from his department—master's student Annika Jersild, postdoctoral associate Evan Brooks, Associate Professor Valerie Thomas, and Professor Randolph Wynne—built on data and concepts from the two projects...
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