This post originally appeared on http://www.greenoptimistic.com/drone-cameras-capture-dryland-ecosystems-throughout-time-20160609/.
[Editor’s Note: Andrew Cunliffe, lead researcher at the University of Exeter, sees drones as bridging the gap between satellite and on-the-ground methods.]
Drones aren’t just for the government. Research by the University of Exeter shows there are environmental applications for drones too. Now, with ‘point and shoot’ basic cameras, drones can improve understanding of dryland ecosystems at a reduced cost.
The drylands are a critical provider of food, water, and biofuel with an area that composes 40 percent of the Earth. Cities such as Cape Town, Los Angeles, Madrid, and Teheran rely on the drylands for resources. Its biomass includes forests, savannas, and agricultural lands.
Changes in the dryland ecosystems need to be surveyed in order to make better use of its resources as well as improve its ability to store carbon dioxide in its soil, thereby reducing high atmospheric concentrations.
The University of Exeter provided images of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico by drone usage that totaled to $3,000. The photos clearly indicated the ability of drones to capture small differences in the area.
The lead researcher Andrew Cunliffe claimed, “This technique bridges the gap between satellite and on-the-ground methods. It is a tool to help us further understand climate systems and what changes are happening now, and what could happen in the future.”
Without having to rely on expensive satellite equipment or individual photographers, ecologists and land managers can survey the drylands to better understand climate change.
The observation of minor changes in vegetation over time could lead to an understanding of biomass inventories and allow scientific experiments to be carried out on an area that would be well-researched. Current issues with biomass inventories stem from the inability to accurately measure dryland ecosystem changes over time.
The Remote Sensing of Environment published dryland vegetation quantification information that was derived from drone photographs. This simple solution is likely to suggest the positive role of drones in future environmental applications.