Be a Dead Tree Detective and Citizen Scientist

The Dead Tree Detective
Citizen Science to Monitor Tree Health

Have you seen dead or dying trees in your area? Go to the “Surveys” section and choose “Add a record”. You can then upload photos of your trees and answer a few questions to help identify the possible causes. You’ll find some information about each of these causes in the “Resources” section. Here are some photos from B Medlyn.

How tough are Australian trees?
We tend to think of Australian trees as being pretty tough – well-adapted to drought and high temperatures. Research shows, however, that most tree species have a
fairly tight ”safety margin”. That is, their adaptations enable them to survive typical droughts in their native environments, but more extreme droughts are likely to tip
them over the edge. In Australia, widespread tree death has followed intense drought in some places such as river redgums along the Murray, and jarrah forests in WA.

Records needed
For most other forests around Australia, we don’t know what levels of drought they can survive. During the Millennium Drought, there are very few records of trees dying from drought – but is that because few trees died, or because no-one made records? We do know that many of the trees around Cooma died in the years following the Millennium Drought, but scientists are uncertain of the cause because no-one knows when the trees started to die.

How you can help
Taking photos of dead and dying trees to record where and when trees die in your area will help scientists trying to work out the level of drought that different species can
tolerate. You can send in photos via the website or by email. Trees can die for a lot of reasons besides drought, so the survey asks a few questions to help work out the
likely cause of your trees’ death. You might also like to check up on the trees over time to see if they recover.

What will happen to the data?
The data will be stored in the Atlas of Living Australia main database. The records will be freely available, so that everybody will be able to track tree death in their area.
Scientists will combine these data with weather data to work out the severity of drought likely to cause tree death in different areas. Results using the data will be published
on the Dead Tree Detective blog, in scientific publications and in the media.