In the UK, National Tree Week (26 November – 4 December) celebrates tree planting within local communities. The latest BES cross-journal Virtual Issue contains recent papers that highlight the global importance of trees and forests as habitat – for species from insects to primates – and in meeting human needs for fuel and agriculture. The selected papers also demonstrate novel methods scientists are using to study trees and forests.
National Tree Week is the UK’s largest tree celebration. It was started in 1975 by the Tree Council and has grown into an event that brings hundreds of organisations together to mark the beginning of Britain’s winter tree planting season.
This Virtual Issue was compiled by Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors Sarah Goslee and Sean McMahon. All of the articles in this Virtual Issue are free for a limited time and we have a little bit more information about each of the Methods papers included here:
Connecting Forest Patches
Landscape connectivity is important for the ecology and genetics of populations threatened by climate change and habitat fragmentation. To begin our Virtual Issue Rayfield et al. present a method for identifying a multipurpose network of forest patches that promotes both short- and long-range connectivity. Their approach can be tailored to local, regional and continental conservation initiatives to protect essential species movements that will allow biodiversity to persist in a changing climate. The authors illustrate their method in the agroecosystem bordered by the Laurentian and Appalachian mountain ranges, that surrounds Montreal.
Habitat Condition Assessment System
Consistent and repeatable estimation of habitat condition for biodiversity assessment across large areas (from regional to global) with limited field observations presents a major challenge for remote sensing. In our second article, Harwood et al. describe an algorithm called Habitat Condition Assessment System, designed to address the uncertainties arising from these challenges. The mechanics of the new algorithm are demonstrated in a simple worked example and the practical application is shown through a case study using inferred ‘natural-only’ reference data, reflective remotely sensed data, and associated environmental data, to map condition for Australia. This algorithm could address some of the key pitfalls of condition modelling and could be applied in many regions with sufficient coverage of remote sensing data.
Forest Carbon Density
Our third Virtual Issue paper – Tree-centric mapping of forest carbon density from airborne laser scanning and hyperspectral data – comes from Dalponte and Coomes. In this article, the authors develop a tree-centric approach to carbon mapping, based on identifying individual tree crowns and species from airborne remote sensing data. They show that show this approach is highly reliable and that it can produce maps at any scale. Also, it is fundamentally based on field-based inventory methods, making it intuitive and transparent.
Canopy Strata in Diverse Forest Types
Using discrete-return airborne laser scanning to quantify number of canopy strata across diverse forest types – the fourth entry in our National Tree Week Virtual Issue – introduces a new technique to estimate the number of strata that comprise a forest’s canopy profile. Wilkes et al. provide a primary descriptor of canopy structure to complement canopy height and cover, as well as a candidate Ecological Biodiversity Variable for characterising habitat structure in this article. They demonstrate their methods in forest systems ranging from short woodland with a discontinuous single canopy to tall and structurally complex temperate rain forest.
Collecting Leaves and Seeds
The final Methods article in this Virtual Issue is an Applications paper from Youngentob et al. In the paper (A simple and effective method to collect leaves and seeds from tall trees), the authors present a cost-effective and simple alternative for collecting leaves and seeds from tall trees using an arborist throw-line launcher. The techniques they describe remove many of the limitations commonly associated with sampling leaves and seeds from tall trees with more traditional methods. Without these limitations, the costs, risks and time associated with this type of data collection are reduced. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the method, there is also a set of three tutorial videos.
To access all of these articles and the related articles from Functional Ecology, the Journal of Animal Ecology, the Journal of Applied Ecology and, of course, the Journal of Ecology, check out our full National Tree Week Virtual Issue. The articles from all five journals are freely available for a limited time.