University of Oxford opts for a UAV-based approach to study the adaptation of Mexican tropical forests to climate change

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SPH Engineering
April 19, 2022

A research team from the University of Oxford, the UK, has been investigating if tropical forests are able to adapt to a changing climate. They use a UAV with the MicaSense dual camera sensor to learn the level of stress in which the trees are given their morphological and water and leaf chemistry levels.

Jesus Aguirre Gutierrez, Senior Researcher, NERC Independent Research Fellow, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, shares with SPH Engineering the experience in Mexico.

The research team from the University of Oxford goes to different sites across the tropics (Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Ghana, Gabon, Malaysia, and Australia) to collect censuses of vegetation, plant traits (e.g. characteristics of leaves such as nutrients, thickness, area), vegetation structure metrics based on LiDAR remote sensing and also spectral reflectance of the canopies with special cameras and drones. The UAV-based data collection method is considered one of the most innovative ways of collecting spectral data from the canopies of tropical forests across large spatial extents and with high spectral and spatial resolution.

Image 1 © J.A. Gutierrez

The fieldwork in Mexico was carried out during the second half of October 2021 by the researchers from the University of Oxford and the University Juarez del Estado de Durango. The study was conducted in tropical dry, in the Jalisco state of Mexico, and tropical wet forests, in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico. DJI Inspire 2 and the MicaSense dual camera sensor was used while missions were planned with UgCS software from SPH Engineering.

‘I have to plan the missions to fly the drone across the different sites in the tropical forests I do research with. This means I need software that gives me flexibility to plan at any point during my fieldwork and that can take into account differences in topography, for instance, the path to fly in case the vegetation is up the mountain. UgCS allowed me to do this with high accuracy and ease and the results are also very high quality ’, Jesus Aguirre Gutierrez comments.

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