Clouds play a key role in deciding animal and plant habitats
conservation and management have been chronically obstructed by the difficulty in precisely marking habitats and describing biodiversity. But it has been found that tracking the water cycle through clouds could help identify specific animal and plant habitats. Researchers from Yale and Buffalo universities of the US have identified sizes and locations of some important habitats using cloud cover data.
Clouds are inextricably linked to environmental factors such as rainfall, sunlight and surface temperature. Any change in these factors will impact cloud. Since these environmental factors are central in determining areas where plants and animals can survive, scientists have made use of cloud cover data to learn more about habitats and the biodiversity they harbour.
The researchers used 15 years of data from NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites to build a database of two cloud cover images per day for almost every square kilometre of the earth. Analysing the data, they found that observed variations in the cloud cover sharply matched the peripheries of biomes that were home to unique species.
Looking at the variations and patterns in cloud cover, researchers could predict habitats specific to montane wood-creeper, a bird from South America, and king protea, a plant from South Africa, in unprecedented detail. The study was published in PLoSBiology in March this year.
One can predict the habitat of king protea looking at patterns in cloud cover