A new satellite-based map of a section of the Amazon Basin reveals that at least some of the massive fires burning there this past summer were concentrated in water-stressed areas of the rainforest. The stressed plants released measurably less water vapor into the air than unstressed plants; in other words, they were struggling to stay cool and conserve water, leaving them more vulnerable to the fires.

The fires in the Amazon Basin, which continue to burn into November, are mainly the result of such human activities as land clearing and deforestation. The pattern — spotted from space by NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) — points to how water-stressed plants can impact the spread of fires. The data may one day help NASA’s Earth-observing missions predict the path of future forest or brush fires like those currently raging in California.

The primary mission of ECOSTRESS, an instrument that measures thermal infrared energy emitted from the land surface, is to provide insight into plants’ health by taking their temperature. To keep cool, plants “sweat” by releasing water vapor through their pores, a process called evapotranspiration. After multiple orbits, ECOSTRESS is able to measure how much plants transpire and track their response to climate change.

In August, fires spread over large swaths of the Amazon Basin. ECOSTRESS captured the first image of the Amazon rainforest in Peru before the fires began, on Aug. 7. It shows a surface temperature map revealing water-stressed and non-stressed forest (shown in brown and blue, respectively). The fire icons represent fires imaged by NASA’s Terra satellite between Aug. 19 and 26. The fires are limited primarily to areas of water-stressed plants that transpired the least. The second image, taken by the Terra satellite on Aug. 18, shows the ECOSTRESS study area and smoke from active fires in the rainforest.

The image also reveals how certain parts of the forest were more resilient, seeming to protect themselves from burning. Plants in these areas were cooler — in other words, they released more water vapor from their leaves — than plants in the burn zones, though mission scientists don’t know whether that’s a coincidence or a direct causal relationship. The water-stressed areas of the forest look as green and healthy as these cooler areas, making them invisible except to a radiometer that can measure thermal infrared energy from the surface.

“To the naked eye, the fires appear randomly distributed throughout the forest,” said Josh Fisher, ECOSTRESS science lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “But, if you overlay the ECOSTRESS data, you can see that the fires are mainly confined within the highly water-stressed areas. The fires avoided the low-stress areas where the forest appears to have access to more water.”

It’s still a mystery why some plants become stressed while other plants don’t, though scientists believe it’s dependent on factors like the species of plant or amount of water in the soil. The data from ECOSTRESS will help answer questions about which plants will thrive in their changing environments and could also be used to help with decisions related to water management and agricultural irrigation.

JPL built and manages the ECOSTRESS mission for the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ECOSTRESS is an Earth Venture Instrument mission; this program is managed by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

More information about ECOSTRESS is available here:

https://ecostress.jpl.nasa.gov

5 COMMENTS

  1. I wish to express appreciation to the writer for bailing me out of such a scenario. Right after surfing throughout the the web and finding advice which are not helpful, I thought my entire life was done. Being alive minus the answers to the issues you’ve sorted out through your good posting is a critical case, and those which may have in a wrong way affected my career if I hadn’t encountered your web blog. Your primary ability and kindness in touching the whole thing was tremendous. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not come across such a thing like this. I can at this time relish my future. Thanks for your time very much for this expert and sensible help. I won’t think twice to propose your site to anyone who desires guidelines about this issue.

  2. Thank you a lot for providing individuals with an extraordinarily pleasant opportunity to check tips from this site. It really is so sweet plus full of amusement for me personally and my office friends to visit the blog at a minimum thrice in one week to read through the new issues you have. And indeed, we are always fulfilled with your staggering secrets you serve. Some 4 tips in this post are truly the most effective we’ve ever had.

  3. I precisely needed to appreciate you all over again. I do not know what I might have accomplished in the absence of these concepts contributed by you directly on this industry. It had become a real troublesome condition for me, however , being able to view the professional style you treated it took me to weep with delight. Now i’m happier for your information and thus have high hopes you really know what an amazing job you are always carrying out instructing men and women with the aid of your blog post. I am sure you haven’t got to know any of us.

  4. Thanks a lot for giving everyone an extraordinarily spectacular chance to check tips from here. It’s usually very cool plus full of a great time for me and my office colleagues to visit your web site at minimum thrice a week to see the new tips you will have. And of course, we’re actually fascinated concerning the spectacular guidelines you give. Certain 1 facts in this article are essentially the most effective I have had.

  5. I needed to send you a little bit of word in order to give many thanks as before for those beautiful basics you have shared on this website. It is certainly strangely open-handed with people like you to convey unreservedly what some people would have supplied for an e book to make some profit for their own end, chiefly given that you might well have done it if you desired. Those pointers likewise worked like the good way to comprehend most people have the identical desire really like my own to realize way more with respect to this condition. I am certain there are millions of more pleasant instances in the future for individuals that scan your blog.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here