Measuring Tree Properties and Responses Using Low-Cost Accelerometers

Tim van Emmerik, Susan Steele-Dunne, Rolf Hut, Pierre Gentine, Marceau Guerin, Rafael Oliveira, Jim Wagner, John Selker, Nick van de Giesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
204 Downloads (Pure)


Trees play a crucial role in the water, carbon and nitrogen cycle on local, regional and global scales. Understanding the exchange of momentum, heat, water, and CO 2 between trees and the atmosphere is important to assess the impact of drought, deforestation and climate change. Unfortunately, ground measurements of tree properties such as mass and canopy interception of precipitation are often expensive or difficult due to challenging environments. This paper aims to demonstrate the concept of using robust and affordable accelerometers to measure tree properties and responses. Tree sway is dependent on mass, canopy structure, drag coefficient, and wind forcing. By measuring tree acceleration, we can relate the tree motion to external forcing (e.g., wind, precipitation and related canopy interception) and tree physical properties (e.g., mass, elasticity). Using five months of acceleration data of 19 trees in the Brazilian Amazon, we show that the frequency spectrum of tree sway is related to mass, canopy interception of precipitation, and canopy–atmosphere turbulent exchange.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1098
Number of pages17
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2017


  • hydrology
  • tree physiology
  • tree sway
  • water stress
  • wind
  • canopy
  • Amazon
  • drag coefficient
  • climate change
  • turbulence
  • interceprtion


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