by Jeff Gillies
Somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, a single white fir tree is feeding scientists data that could help predict the species’ fate as it responds to climate change.
The tree, dubbed Critical Zone Tree 1, is threaded with sensors measuring its sap flow and the volume of water sucked up by its roots and emitted from its canopy as vapor. More instruments radiate in spokes into the space around the tree, some standing on the the surface and others buried in the soil, measuring temperature and moisture.
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The primary Critical Zone Tree in the Southern Sierra CZO is a White Fir (Abies concolor) that has been intensely instrumented with soil moisture, temperature, and matric potential sensors, snow depth, solar radiation, and sap flow sensors, resin nutrient collectors, tension lysimeters and time lapse photography. The Southern Sierra CZO currently has three instrumented trees.
A photo gallery of the Critical Zone Trees can be found here.