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09/2020: Setting up sensors to study how forest biodiversity affects human thermal comfort

Blog by: Loïc Gillerot (WP2: Microclimate, medicinal and edible plants, and fungi). 

Finally, we made it to Bialowieza, the largest pristine forest complex left in temperate Europe! Despite the many complications related to delayed deliveries, working outdoors during heatwaves, and having to change plans spontaneously due to covid-related reasons, we are ready to install sensors at the second-to-last of the eight sites distributed in four countries. It’s also thanks to the crucial help from local partners, my friend Mariah and my new colleague Kevin (working on mental health – see T1.1 and T1.2) that it’s all working out, many thanks!

Kevin standing in front of a fully-loaded car – ready for the European trip

Using a combination of various sensors and home-made constructions, we will measure the microclimate in forests stands with different tree species and levels of biodiversity to understand how this will influence how humans perceive temperature. Essentially, there are four ‘objective’ variables that determine thermal comfort: air temperature, humidity, wind speed and mean radiant temperature (in other words: sunlight and infrared radiation reflected from the surroundings). 

The basic sensor setup in a three species plot

It’s well-known that forests have a climate-buffering effect, which becomes particularly important during heatwaves and cold spells, but less clear is what type of forest is most efficient in proving optimal thermal conditions and sheltering us from climate extremes. This is why we study a variety of different tree species, growing alone or in mixtures, and why we obtain some forest structure data like stand density and canopy openness.

To be continued!