Research

Current Projects

Montane Cloud Forest Adaptation to a Changing Climate

Montane cloud forests (MCFs) are incredibly biodiverse regions globally that exist at narrow elevation bands and are frequently under the presence of low-level clouds and fog. Increasing temperatures and rising cloud base heights threaten these ecosystems, and may reduce the duration of time that plants are exposed to fog. Some cloud forest species have adapted mechanisms to take advantage of their unique microclimate; for example, the ability to uptake water through leaf stomata in a process known as foliar uptake. The goal of this work is to investigate feedbacks between microclimate and MCF adaptation strategies in light of changing climate conditions. (Supported by NSF 2130113).

Reynolda Meadow, Winston-Salem, NC - Jan 2018
Grissom Field, Asheboro, NC - Mar 2021

Fire and Ecosystem Health

The Southeast region of the U.S. observes a large number of fires in a given year. As a prominent and oft-occurring disturbance, it is critical to understand the role of fire in altering canopy structure and regional carbon, energy and water budgets. Extreme drought conditions over the past two decades allow for larger and more persistent fire events that severely limit the region’s capacity to uptake atmospheric CO2, reducing its capacity as a global carbon sink. Further, the underlying processes that determine how vegetation recovers after fire events are not well understood. We are evaluating how fire conditions within the canopy affect vegetation regrowth patterns immediately following the fire event and in subsequent growing seasons. This is a collaborative project with Dr. Kyle Luthy (WFU Engineering) and Dr. Christopher Zarzar (NCSU) with the goal of developing an sensor system to observe fire and quantifying plant physiological and environmental responses to fire.

Drought Detection, Prediction, and Vegetation Recovery

Flash-droughts are caused by an excess of sunlight, lack of heavy rainfall, high temperatures, strong winds during a growing season that lead to the rapid drying-up of soil moisture. In 2012, a major flash-drought hit the Corn Belt in the Midwest region of the United States causing the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history with over $17 billion in losses from crops, $800 million in Texas timber resources. The goal of this project is to investigate the role vegetation plays in the rapidly drying conditions. Results from this work have implications for understanding plant resiliency to extreme drought that can inform cropping strategies to minimize financial losses from flash-drought events in the United States. (Supported by NSF 2151881)

Previous Projects

Lost Waterways of Winston-Salem

Free Film Screening & Panel Discussion

September 5th | 5 PM | a/perture cinema


This community focused and driven project aims to spark debate and nurture spirited discussions about hidden hydrology and other water and environmental issues in Winston-Salem, and transform those conversations into action. The 'Lost Waterways of Winston-Salem' event brings together students from each college in Forsyth County -- Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, Salem College, UNC School of the Arts, and Forsyth Tech -- and engages them in projects related to local sustainability issues led by local community partners. The overarching theme for the event plays off of the “City of Arts and Innovation” motto for the City of Winston-Salem and equally emphasizes the scientific, historic and artistic dimensions of local water and sustainability issues. This project is supported by a grant from the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science Inc. (CUAHSI) and the Johnson Family Foundation as part of the 'Let's Talk About Water' Challenge Grant Program.

Publications

  • Christian, J., Basara, J., Lowman, L. E. L., Xiao, X. Mesheske, D., and Y. Zhou (2022), Flash drought identification from satellite-based land surface water index. Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rsase.2022.100770.

  • Hunt, E., Christian, J., Basara, J., Lowman, L. E. L., Otkin, J., Bell, J., Jarecke, K., Wakefield, R., and R. Randall (2020), The Flash Drought of 1936. Journal of Applied and Service Climatology, 2020, http://www.doi.org/10.46275/JOASC.2020.11.001.

  • Lowman, L. E. L., and *Dil Godoy, L. (2020), Simulating Stomatal Response to Cloud Immersion for Montane Cloud Forests in the Southern Appalachians. Ag. For. Met., 295, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2020.108165.

  • Lowman, L. E. L., *Wei, T. M., and A. P. Barros (2018), Rainfall Variability, Wetland Persistence, and Water-Carbon Cycle Coupling in the Upper Zambezi River Basin in Southern Africa. Remote Sens., 10, doi.org/10.3390/rs10050692

  • Lowman, L. E. L., and A. P. Barros (2018), Predicting canopy biophysical properties and sensitivity of plant carbon uptake to water limitations with a coupled eco-hydrological framework. Ecol. Model., 372, 33-52, doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2018.01.011.

  • Lowman, L. E. L., and A. P. Barros (2016), Interplay of Drought and Tropical Cyclone Activity in SE US Gross Primary Productivity. J. Geophys. Res. - Biogeosci., 120, doi:10.1002/2015JG003279.

  • Lowman, L. E. L., and A. P. Barros (2014), Investigating links between climate and orography in the central Andes: Coupling erosion and precipitation using a physical-statistical model. J. Geophys. Res. - Earth Surf., 119, 1322-1353, doi:10.1002/2013JF002940.

(*undergraduate student author)