Help Map Out Australia’s Dead Trees

Caitlin Dempsey


Southeastern Australia is experiencing a severe drought.  Stress from this drought is causing the death of large numbers of trees.  Australia has already experienced a change in climate with temperatures across the country rising an average of 1℃ since 1910.  Exacerbating this, winter rainfall in southern Australia has fallen.  Previous research has shown that native trees in Australia are vulnerable to slight changes in climate, having evolved micro climate adaptions.

Researchers want to understand how the changing tree population will affect biodiversity, water supplies, fire risk, and carbon storage. Researchers also want to understand the conditions under which trees die from climate stress.  Many native Australian plants are adapted to surviving with prolonged drought and highly variable rainfall.  Severe drought outside of the norms, however, is causing stress on native plants.  Coupled with heat stress from higher average temperatures, trees are starting to die off at higher rates.

To help with this researches, The Dead Tree Detective has been developed.  Remote sensing can track areas of healthy vegetation but it can’t map out dead vegetation.  On the ground observations are needed to map out where dead native trees are in Australia.  By using a GPS-enabled smartphone, volunteers can capture imagery of tree health around Australia to help researchers with their project.

Visit: The Dead Tree Detective

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.