Together with his team, Matthias Beyer is using drones to establish a method that can be used to measure the water cycles in trees. The results also enable a better understanding of how vegetation is able to adapt to climate change. Additionally, by means of a video project, the research team now also provides detailed insights into the field research in Costa Rica – and into their daily research routine.
Dr. Beyer, could you please tell us something about your research project? What are you working on?
My Freigeist project is called "Isodrones - Resolving the mystery of deep roots". The project deals with deep-rooted vegetation, which exists in almost all the regions and climates on Earth, but about which – due to restricted accessibility – very little is known so far. What we do know, however, is that in many regions, deep-rooted plants play a major role in bridging dry periods. In a healthy mixed forest, for example, deep-rooted trees can shift water into the upper layers of soil, where it becomes available for other tree species. In the context of climate change, which also affects Germany, this is a particularly relevant phenomenon.
The main goal of this project is to be able to detect deep-rooted vegetation (trees, but also shrubs and plant crops) and their impact on ecosystems using drone-based approaches alone. To achieve this goal, we need a long-term, temporally highly disaggregated, and specialized dataset on which to develop appropriate criteria. To this end, we are developing an approach comprising novel methods for measuring stable water isotopes in soils, plants and the atmosphere, which we complement with more classical physiological measurements. Combined with high-resolution images gained from drone flights, we aim to derive indicators that allow us to draw conclusions about the approximate water uptake depth, independent of the tree species studied. Admittedly, this is a very ambitious goal – but this is what a Freigeist Fellowship is all about!