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Environment

SNAPSHOT: A New Way to Track Biodiversity

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(Credit: Ran Wang) A team of scientists at the University of Alberta used an image spectrometer — essentially a specialized camera that captures light waves invisible to the naked eye — to create this technicolor shot of plants in the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in Minnesota. The different colors show differences in plants’ functions, which, the team suggests in a paper published last year in Nature Ecology & Evolution, could be a way to illustrate and track biodiversity. Red represents sun-induced fluorescence, when a plant releases extra solar energy it doesn’t need for photosynthesis; green indicates the light-absorbing pigment chlorophyll; and blue marks a plant that is under stress, which can affect its ability to perform photosynthesis.

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