World maps of glowing plants

Did you know plants emit a faint reddish glow (fluorescence) as a by-product of photosynthesis ?

In a set of maps described in NASA’s news release as ‘groundbreaking’, scientists working at the Goddard flight center have depicted this activity for land vegetation around the globe for the very first time.  The data was collected with the spectrometer on the Japanese Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT).

Two maps show the striking difference between fluorescence in the winter and summer seasons in Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Global plant fluorescence  July vs December

Apparently previous maps showing plant ‘greenness’ suffer from a significant time lag between changes on the ground occurring and what satellites can detect. Measuring plant fluorescence offers much more immediate insight into things like environmental stress.

How could this data be used ?

They could help farmers respond to extreme weather or make it easier for aid workers to detect and respond to famines. Fluorescence could also lead to breakthroughs in scientists’ understanding of how carbon cycles through ecosystems – — one of the key areas of uncertainty in climate science.

Read more at NASA.

Also See: The Green Planet

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