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Aerial monitors explore reed die-back condition around lakes

An international team led by Professor Heiko Baltzer from the Department of Geography has developed a way to increase our understanding of the die-back of reeds throughout Europe - including popular tourist areas - through satellite and aircraft monitoring systems.

Known as ‘reed die-back’, the condition has affected reeds throughout many parts of Europe since the 1960s and has been intensively studied by biologists and ecologists for decades. The exact causes of reed die-back are still being debated today.

PhD student Dimitris Stratoulias and his supervisors Professor Heiko Balzter from Leicester and Dr Viktor Tóth and Dr Andras Zlinszky from the Hungarian Centre for Ecological Research studied the lake shore around Europe’s largest lake, Lake Balaton in Hungary, which attracts over 4 million tourists each year.

The study, published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, describes how a technique called imaging spectroscopy can be applied to understand reed die-back. Hyperspectral data collected from modern sensors on board of aircraft and satellites can measure radiation that is invisible to the human eye, such as near-infrared wavelengths.

The team hope that the data can tell them something about the ecological status of the reed plants by measuring their chlorophyll absorption.

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