Drylands, including regions of hyper-arid, arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid climates, represent approximately 40% of the Earth's surface and more than two billion people depend on the services provided by these ecosystems. High rates of deforestation and degradation coupled with frequent extreme droughts renders dryland vegetation, including that existing in the Brazilian semiarid region, one of the most vulnerable and critical ecosystems in the world. Abiotic factors such as temperature and precipitation are directly related to the phenology of plants. Thus, climate warming and extreme climatic events have been altering the phenological synchrony of plant organisms, with consequently impacts on global carbon balances. Remote sensing data is essential for continuous monitoring of the Earth and has enabled a better understanding of leaf-ecosystem interactions. In this context, the main objective of this PhD proposal is the implementation of a multidisciplinary methodology, based on the multi-temporal integration of several products from remote sensors and at multiple scales (orbital and local), high data processing, artificial intelligence, and empirical ecological theory to investigate phenological trends on drylands natural vegetation. For that, the drylands inserted in the Southern Hemisphere will be analyzed, specifically in Australia and Brazil. It is intended to use local data from plots network, flux towers and phenological cameras (PhenoCams) already existing in these locations, data from orbital remote sensing time series, and potential more recent remote sensing technologies such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), as it characterizes the structural and functional diversity of vegetation, and physiological vegetation properties derived from VOD (vegetation optical depth) and SIF (solar-induced fluorescence) data. The proposed research has a technological character, as it uses recent remote sensing technologies, as well as innovation, because it considers a topic still scarce in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in the Brazilian semiarid region. In this manner, the project aims to contribute to scientific knowledge about climate and plant phenology relationship models, and to support decision-making policies with more accurate information for future climate change scenarios and drought forecasts. Also, it aims to increase the synergy between national and international research groups highly qualified in this research topic, improving technical and scientific knowledge applied to remote sensing of drylands.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: