By ISS Expedition 26 crew [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on Phys.org 


“Doctors learn a lot about their patients’ health by taking their temperature. An elevated temperature, or fever, can be a sign of illness. The same goes for plants, but their temperatures on a global scale are harder to measure than the temperatures of individual people.

That’s about to change, thanks to a new NASA instrument that soon will be installed on the International Space Station called ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station. ECOSTRESS will measure the  of  from space. This will enable researchers to determine plant water use and to study how drought conditions affect plant health.

Plants draw in water from the soil, and as they are heated by the Sun, the water is released through pores on the plants’ leaves through a process called transpiration. This cools the plant down, much as sweating does in humans. However, if there is not enough water available to the plants, they close their pores to conserve water, causing their temperatures to rise.

Plants use those same pores to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis—the process they use to turn carbon dioxide and water into the sugar they use as food. If they continue to experience insufficient water availability, or “,” they eventually starve or overheat, and die.

ECOSTRESS data will show these changes in plants’ temperatures, providing insight into their health and water use while there is still time for water managers to correct agricultural water imbalances…”

Read on at: Phys.org