Henry is passionate about plants and keeping forests healthy. Over the last few decades, Henry and other foresters have frequently witnessed forest dieback - a condition when trees at the edge of forests die due to abiotic or biotic factors. Many research studies have been conducted on the causes of dieback as well as remedial measures that may be taken to prevent extreme cases of this affliction. However, the ability to identify trees and plants before they present visual symptoms is limited if not meager.
According to Henry’s experience, many plants can be saved by identifying dieback early. The question is, how? Remote sensing based on image data captured from drones and satellites could help, but the measurements are only available when significant damage is apparent. As Henry frequently says, “Remote sensing does not cut it. We need something that can detect dieback symptoms sooner rather than after the damage has been done.”
The answer to Henry’s issue came when he heard about PhotosynQ —a product which can measure the photosynthetic status of leaves within 15-20 seconds. Its ability to take multiple measurements from any number of leaves and plants in parallel with other instruments also seemed particularly useful to Henry’s cause . Since photosynthesis is the central reaction in plants, any biotic or abiotic stress would deviate plants from their typical photosynthetic behavior. Other deviations in photosynthesis that depend on age, species, location, and phenological state of the plant can also be accounted for by the metadata collected through PhotosynQ. This can provide further insight as to how dieback affects the forest ecosystem.
Henry envisions forest scientists worldwide collecting PhotosynQ data to record the health status of their ecosystems through photosynthetic measurements and report any correlations with dieback data. Starting with keystone species and eventually expanding to other species, they could establish a ‘global database’ which can be linked with NDVI data generated through remote sensing. With the help of foresters worldwide, Henry can help conserve forests and prevent future cases of dieback.