Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Remove Thousands of Aspens to Glimpse Forest's Future

28.05.2008
Armed with chainsaws and pry bars, University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues recently hastened the end for nearly 7,000 mature aspen and birch trees in a large-scale, long-term experiment to glimpse the Great Lakes region's future forests.

A band of bark was stripped from each tree to kill it without cutting it down.

The main goal of the federally funded experiment Forest Accelerated Succession Experiment (FASET) is to determine how much heat-trapping carbon dioxide forests of the Upper Midwest will remove from the air in coming decades.

Forests can help offset human-caused climate warming, and scientists want to know how big a role these particular forests will play.

The work began this month at the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston, at the northern tip of the state's Lower Peninsula. Project scientists say it's one of the largest experiments of its kind ever undertaken.

"Are the forests of the future going to be taking up more carbon than today's forests? That's the big-picture question, and we think the answer is, 'Yes, they will,'" said Christoph Vogel, a U-M forest ecologist.

"These aspens would naturally fall out, one at a time, over the next 20 to 30 years," he said. "By imposing this artificial treatment, we're doing it all at once. I think it will give us a good picture of what the forest will look like in 20 or 30 years."

If Vogel and his colleagues are right about a future rise in carbon storage, Great Lakes-area forests will play an increasingly important role in helping to soak up carbon dioxide (CO2), an invisible gas blamed for global warming.

But here's the big question to be addressed by FASET: Just how much CO2 will future forests remove?

Finding the answer is not as straightforward as it might seem. Scientists can't simply measure the current CO2 uptake and project that number into the future because the region's forests are in flux. In fact, they are on the cusp of the most profound change since the forests were clear-cut in the late 1800s.

Today across the Upper Midwest, the aging aspen and birch trees that dominate the forest canopy are starting to die of old age. The sun-hogging aspen and birch are gradually giving way to understory species---red maple, beech, white pine, red pine, and red oak---currently stuck in partial shade.

As the aspen and birch drop out, the increased sunlight should boost the growth rate among the pines, oaks and maples, leading to a more complex, multi-layered canopy. The FASET experiment is designed to speed up that transition, acting like a time machine that allows scientists to measure future carbon uptake now.

"We're simply accelerating the natural process of succession to allow the pine and the hemlock and the oak to come up and take their position in the canopy a little faster than they otherwise would, so that we can address the question, What will these future forests be like?" said Peter Curtis, an Ohio State University ecologist and the FASET principal investigator.

Aspen and birch will be killed in an 83-acre "treatment stand" using a technique called girdling. Instead of felling the trees with chainsaws, workers use the saws to inscribe two shallow, parallel cuts that encircle the tree trunk. Other workers follow with hammers and steel pry bars, stripping a band of bark from the trees.

Girdling trees kills them while preventing them from sprouting new shoots. Sugars produced in the leaves can't make it down to the roots, which slowly starve. But water, minerals and growth hormones called cytokinins continue to flow up to the canopy.

If the trees were simply cut down, cytokinins would accumulate in the roots and signal the tree to sprout new shoots. The end result, over time, would be even more aspens.

In the coming years, atmospheric carbon dioxide uptake in the treatment stand will be compared to uptake in a control stand about a mile away. Both sites have large towers topped with sniffers that send air samples to analytic instruments inside mobile laboratories below.

The U-M Biological Station, established in 1909, covers about 10,000 acres. Nearly all of it is designated as a nature research area.

Measurements collected since 1999 show that the U-M experimental forest adds about 7,000 tons of carbon each year to its total mass by pulling in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and storing the carbon as new wood.

Vogel and his FASET colleagues from Ohio State University and Indiana University predict that once the aging aspens and birch are removed and the treatment stand has a chance to recover, the carbon storage rate in the treated area could increase by as much as 40 percent.

It's expected to increase because removing the aspens and birches will allow more sunlight to reach the understory trees. A more complex, multi-layered canopy will rise up to replace the aspens and birches.

FASET results will be of interest to climate modelers and forest ecologists---even policymakers. The project is funded with a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Institute for Climate Change Research.

Related links:

FASET project Web site: http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~pcurtis/UMBS~Flux/index.htm

U-M Biological Station: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/umbs/

University of Michigan | newswise
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Raiding the rape field
23.05.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New technique reveals details of forest fire recovery
17.05.2018 | DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>