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Darwin SUSFOR: Fun with leaves!

Elton and Feridi

The people in this photo look like they’re having fun, don’t they? Yes, that is a scanner and yes, those are leaves. So, why are they scanning leaves?

To better understand the response of tropical forests to climate change, the Darwin Initiative funded Sustainable Forestry in Belize (Darwin SUSFOR) project has established and is monitoring multiple intensive ecosystem monitoring plots by the recommendations of the Amazon Forest Inventory Network (RAINFOR)/Global Ecosystem Monitoring (GEM) methodological framework.

Interns, Elton Guevara and Feridi Torres, seen in the photo above are scanning leaves for the calculation of Specific Leaf Area, SLA for short. SLA calculation is one of the many protocols of the RAINFOR/GEM methodological framework monitored through these intensive monitoring plots.

Specific leaf area is the ratio of leaf area to its dry mass calculated by dividing the total one-sided leaf area by total dry leaf mass per point. Scanning is the first step, the images are then analyzed using an image processor to determine leaf area. Once this is completed, the leaves are dried and total dry weight is recorded. Long-term monitoring of SLA can tell us about the response of our forests to resource availability including light and moisture levels among other variables. It has also been recognized that SLA is often positively correlated to relative growth rates across species and thus, is frequently used in growth analysis.

Stay tuned for more updates on the protocols being implemented under the Darwin SUSFOR project.

Thanks to Elton and Feridi for spending the past 7 weeks with us at the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute.

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