Temperature data being measured in the Atlantic Forest near Sao Paulo, Brazil (Credit: Sophie Fauset)
Title: netCTF: network for monitoring Canopy Temperature of Forests
Duration: 2020-2023
University of Plymouth staff: Dr Sophie Fauset (PI), Mr William Hagan Brown, Mr Peter Ganderton 
Partners: Forestry Research Institute of Ghana; Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune; Northern Arizona University; Oregon State University; State University of Mato Grosso; UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; University of Birmingham; University of Exeter; University of Leeds; Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden

The importance of monitoring leaf temperatures

Forests represent a considerable carbon sink and play a vital role in moderating local air temperatures, but data analysing their response to climate change is currently insufficient. Previous studies have shown that the temperature of individual leaves in the forest canopy can sometimes differ greatly from the surrounding air, and this can cause inaccuracies in Earth system data that simulates temperature-sensitive processes like photosynthesis and respiration.
Long-term, ongoing monitoring covering a range of sites and tree species is required to observe and understand forest response to climate change, and how this might affect the accuracy of climate models.

Establishing a global research network

netCTF is a collaborative project, led by University of Plymouth, that aims to establish an international network of researchers monitoring forest canopy temperatures across five continents. The findings will help develop understanding of how forests are responding to climate change and, hopefully, be an impetus for action.
This vital data will inform climate modelling and forest management policy, and will also be useful for scientists in other research areas. For example, it could be used to test how well vegetation models predict leaf temperature, or it could even help in validating remote sensing and satellite imaging.

Understanding leaf temperature is important because it affects many critical functions and processes... If the leaves in forests are too hot and are unable to cool down, trees could die, further exacerbating the problems of global warming and climate change.

Sophie FausetSophie Fauset
Associate Professor in Terrestrial Ecology

The project in action

  • Initial forest canopy temperature data workshop hosted at University of Plymouth to establish agreements on data-sharing and highlight priority methodologies.
  • Collaborative research network created across five continents, with 12 sites featuring thermal imaging cameras for canopy monitoring. Of these sites, two are newly established with TIC equipment: BIFoR FACE (UK); Bobiri Forest (Ghana).
  • International partner meeting on global data synthesis of forest canopy temperatures. A cross-site analysis of contemporary canopy temperature response to climate change to be published, evaluating site differences, as well as implications for forest functioning.

Further Research

Find out more about our global research into leaf temperature, climate resilience and the health of tropical forests.

Tropical seasonal forest, Bubeng Field Station

Forests facing climate fever
Researching how tropical forests respond to human impact and a changing climate.

Temperature data being measured using sensors attached to a leaf in the Atlantic Forest near Sao Paulo, Brazil (Credit: Sophie Fauset)

Temperature crisis for leaves
Study shows that tropical forests may be approaching a critical high-temperature threshold.

The forest understory layer in Bobiri Forest Reserve (Credit Sophie Fauset)

Are forests storing less carbon?
The ability of tropical forests to remove carbon from the atmosphere is decreasing.

Ecology and Evolution Research Group
Ecology and Evolution Research Group
Research in environmental physiology is investigating the physiological and biochemical responses of organisms to their environment. Given the ever increasing impact of humans on the natural world, this topic is a key focus for our Ecology and Evolution Research Group.

Sustainable Earth Institute

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world.
We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. 
We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business.
Baobab tree in Madagascar