Designed to help forest managers better understand which kinds of trees and other ecological factors will help forests grow back after wildfires and other damaging events, Washington State University's (WSU) software scales up 100-square-meter stands of drought- and shade-tolerant trees to the size of a real forest. To develop their models, the team used existing forestry databases from industry organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and they also collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to image existing forests with drones.
The complex system includes everything from the tree canopy down to the roots. “Each leaf competes for sunlight, while beneath the virtual earth, the organisms’ roots compete for water resources,” Gizmag explains. WSU's goal is to predict how events like wildfires, droughts, increasingly warm weather, and other effects of climate change are affecting North American forests growth.
According to WSU's Nikolay Strigul: