Culture, Climate Science & Education

Lab Nine

Using Satellite-Collected Soil Moisture (SMAP) Data to Assess the Impacts of Climate Change on Camas Growth and Disturbance
Authors: Cynthia Coleman, Tyrel Fenner, and Jacob Clairmont and Dr. Adrian Leighton and David Rockwell

Note to Instructors: This lab can be done with other plants that require moist soil conditions

Soil moisture, one of the most important variables linked to plant performance during the growing season, is the water that is held in the spaces between soil particles. Surface soil moisture is the water in the upper 5 to 10 cm of soil. In January of 2015, NASA launched SMAP, a satellite designed to measure surface soil moisture. Climate change is expected to impact soil moisture in many areas in significant ways. For example, researchers forecast a threefold increase in drought frequency in many regions of the world by the end of the 21st Century. In addition, climate change is expected to profoundly change the seasonal timing of precipitation and whether if falls as rain or snow. These predictions concern First Nations communities because drought can adversely affect culturally important plants like camas, a major food plant for many tribes in the Northwest and Plateau regions. Right now, scientists know little about how climate change will affect soil moisture in those regions, so little is known about the potential impacts on camas.

The purposes of this lab are: (1) to understand how soil moisture affects the distribution and growth of camas, a culturally important food plant for the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people and (2) learn how to use regional climate data to make predictions or draw inferences about how changes in precipitation and temperature will affect soil moisture and how those changes could affect camas. You will also learn the value of the SMAP program and the importance of field validation of remotely sensed data.

© 2018 Salish Kootenai College | Contact Us

© 2018 SKC | Contact Us