Tundra change at the dawn of drone ecology

Submitted by editor on 16 January 2014.

Signe Normand, guest editor of an upcoming special issue on demography has won the L’Oréals/UNESCO’s price For Women in Science. Congratuations! She explains her research below.

Arctic climate is rapidly warming and Arctic vegetation is changing. But are the changes equally rapid everywhere? Vegetation change initially manifests itself at the scale of individual plants, and with locally varying rates across geographic space depending on the interplay between limiting factors and their underlying processes. Understanding the variation in individual responses and local range dynamics, as well as their drivers, across large spatial scales are thus needed to precisely predict the future dynamics of Arctic vegetation. Currently, a prominent gap exist in our knowledge on the scale at which factors and processes act and interact because of a lack of data (data scale gap) linking observed responses of individuals locally with species wide responses globally. The aim of this project is to bridge this gap by upscaling field-based observations to larger areas via very fine-scale imagery obtained from cameras mounted on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones). L’Oreal For Women in Science enables me to conduct the needed fieldwork in Western Greenland in the summer of 2014. The proposed research is foreseen to provide novel insight on variation in local vegetation dynamics across broad scales, and offers a way to improve predictions of global change impacts on Arctic ecosystems.