How do trees feel? To raise awareness over climate change and discover what really makes trees tick, scientists from Ghent University’s Laboratory of Plant Ecology in Belgium have developed a network of twittering trees that allows them to monitor the plants feelings.
Since 2014, TreeWatch sensors have been installed on numerous trees across four locations in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. By observing a tree response to factors such as radiation, temperature, humidity, air pressure, precipitation and wind, researchers are able to determine precise physiological changes in the plant, dependent on various weather conditions. The data are then translated into tweets, sharing with Twitter followers real time information about the health and internal processes of each tree.
In order to gather the required data, tree species such as maple, birch and oak are fitted with plant technologies including sap flow sensors and tree measurers known as dendrometers. Soil moisture sensors are installed near the roots and climatic data are analyzed through an instrument at close range. These internal and external environmental sensors give researchers the ability to pinpoint specific conditions that initiate sap flow and tree growth, ultimately shedding light on the underlying wellbeing of trees.
As TreeWatch technology is fitted on more and more trees across Europe, research prospects are no doubt evolving. With temperature increment and prolonged droughts, experts are eager for forestry organizations to employ technologies such as TreeWatch to ascertain the effects and potential solutions for numerous tree species.
While it can easily go unnoticed, like many forms of nature, trees are constantly interacting with their environment. Although still in its infancy, technologies such as TreeWatch have the potential to reveal the short and long-term effects of climate change induced stress on the adaptation of forests on a larger scale. Now that’s definitely something worth tweeting about!