2024 Abstracts

Spatial and Temporal Drivers of Tropical Forest Canopy Disturbances from Annual Drone Photogrammetry


K. C. Cushman1* (cushmankc@ornl.gov), Milton Garcia2, Robinson Negron-Juarez3, Helene Muller-Landau2, Jeffrey Chambers3,4


1Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN; 2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama; 3Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA; 4Department of Geography, University of California–Berkeley, CA



Disturbance rates are an important control over variation in tropical forest carbon stocks and fluxes. However, there is much uncertainty regarding the relative importance of potential drivers of disturbance rate variation in space and in time. In previous Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE) Tropics research, the team used repeat drone photogrammetry to demonstrate that disturbance rates varied over threefold spatially within the landscape of Barro Colorado Island in Panama (Cushman et al. 2022). Soil type, forest age, and topography explained approximately half of this spatial variation, with important consequences for standing carbon stocks across the landscape. Here, researchers extend previous analysis to explore whether the spatial patterns found in Cushman et al. are consistent over time, using an updated dataset of six annual drone surveys from 2018 to 2023 with improved georeferencing from recent airborne light detection and ranging data. The team also explores whether interannual variation in disturbance rates are related to patterns of convective available potential energy (CAPE) associated with mesoscale convective systems or locally measured precipitation events. Other NGEE Tropics research has shown the importance of CAPE for large windthrows across the Amazon basin (Feng et al. 2023). This project combines these areas of interest within NGEE Tropics to characterize disturbance dynamics in tropical forests.


Cushman, K. C., et al. 2022. “Soils and Topography Control Natural Disturbance Rates and Thereby Forest Structure in a Lowland Tropical Landscape,” Ecology Letters 25(5), 1126–38.

Feng, Y., et al. 2023. “Amazon Windthrow Disturbances Are Likely to Increase with Storm Frequency Under Global Warming,” Nature Communications 14(1), 101.