06 June 2017 | General
When trees start tweeting, it is not magic, it is science (COST Action STReESS)

There were a lot of impactful projects, publications and articles released by COST Action - STReESS (Studying Tree Responses to extreme Events: a Synthesis) during its four years networking programme with COST. However, tweeting trees became a definite highlight of the whole programme.

“But how can trees tweet?” – you may ask.

This can be explained by a smart mechanism developed by the Action: the online tree tracking tool called Tree Water and Carbon monitoring Network . The tool tracks and shows the hydraulic functioning and growth of a growing network of European trees in real time. But this does not finish here. The data on all tracked trees is reported live on the specially created website for trees mapping and fed to the Twitter accounts of the trees. For example, here is the account of the tree in Belgium @TreeWatchNet . See it talking:

27 May: “Hottest day since beginning of spring! Lost 134 L of water and my maximal sapflow was 9.6 L/h. Cold shower would be welcome!”

This tool is aimed at tracking the trees’ response to extreme events caused by climate change and helping researchers investigate the interaction between tree growth and extreme weather.

Below, there are few more examples of what the Action was able to achieve during four years of cooperation:

  • - DendroGlobal - a global database of dendrometer data
  • - XCELL – a platform for xylem cell data collection
  • - Tree mortality – a global tree mortality ring-width database
  • database on radial growth of trees
  • - treewatch.net – a website that maps and monitors trees in real time
  • - @TreeWatchNet - Twittering tree network which gained ample media attention
  • - Tree Survival: Future Challenges film – The film gathers the answers of European researches to five questions on tree mortality and survival. 

“Integration is innovation! If researchers from different fields collaborate, this substantially increases possibilities to tackle important societal questions such as impact of extreme events on European forests. This is how new ideas evolve and existing knowledge and data are combined to come up with recommendations for e.g. the forestry practice. In addition, original developments such as the ‘Tweeting tree’ can create public awareness on relevant research efforts in environmental sciences” .   Dr. Ute Sass-Klaassen, Wageningen University & Research, chair of COST Action STReESS.

Motivated by contributing to the topic of trees response to extreme climatic events, the COST Action STReESS has united almost 350 researchers from 37 countries.

Tweeting trees Stress COST Action

The interdisciplinary approach has allowed a broader view on the topic of how trees react to environmental stress, bringing together researchers from such disciplines as forestry, ecophysiology, forest modelling, forest genetics, dendrochronology.

“I think what we’ve achieved is quite amazing , also considering that COST funding is only for bringing people together, facilitating discussions, and holding workshops and meetings - and that’s what we have been doing. But as a result of that, we’ve had huge outcomes”   Dr. Jordi Martinez-Vilata, CREAF Barcelona

As a result of building connections and establishing cooperation during the COST Action, some researchers teamed up together for further trees-related projects and got funding from other EU institutions: >20 approved research projects. - which ones?

The Action STReESS has also produced a very informative film "Shaping Future Forests" about the Scientific Symposium and Outreach event of our final COST meeting.

More information on the Action, its publications and impact, please check their website: streess-cost.eu


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