Canopy ecophysiology: exploring the terrestrial ecosystem frontier

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Most physiological knowledge regarding trees is based on observations and experiments conducted on seedlings and small trees because they can be easily manipulated and measured (Pallardy 2008). Forest canopy function cannot be inferred from studies of small trees in controlled environments, but canopy trees present a research challenge due to their sheer size and difficulty of vertical access (Meinzer et al. 2010). Canopy ecophysiology has advanced greatly in recent years, due in part to the establishment of new canopy access facilities around the world (Mitchell et al. 2002), including cranes, lifts, platforms, ladders and cable networks (Figure 1). These facilities, along with the introduction of new equipment and techniques in arborist-style tree climbing, allow safer and easier repeated access to the canopy. Technological advances, such as small sensors, portable systems and wireless data loggers, enable researchers to conduct detailed and continuous physiological measurements high in the canopy.

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© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Tree Physiology