Imaging spectroscopy helps researchers understand plant biodiversity

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In Canada, University of Alberta biologists used light spectroscopy to study the functional diversity and evolutionary history of plants. This work is of particular importance because 2050 is expected to see a loss in world economic productivity as a result of global warming threatening one-fifth of vascular plant species.

The method uses an imaging spectrometer, similar to a conventional camera but with a thousand colors, mounted on a moving robotic cart to measure the spectra of light reflected from plants in visible, near-infrared, and short-wave infrared regions to measure differences in plant traits. Differences in reflected radiation allow scientists to not only see more than what the naked eye allows, but also to sample both the functional diversity and evolutionary history of individual plants in the environment.

The technological advance presented in this study gives researchers a new tool to monitor biodiversity, combat threats, and raise awareness of biodiversity importance.