Scientists Undertake Field Study in Puerto Rico
Michigan Technological University researchers are joining US Forest Service and US Geological Survey scientists in the only tropical rainforest in the United States, to get a handle on the impact that climate change—particularly warming—is likely to have on the tropical forests of the world.
Michigan Technological University
Michigan Tech graduate student Alida Mau in Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Forest
The Tropical Response to Altered Climate Experiment (TRACE) research project is supported by the U.S. Forest Service with an additional three-year, $960,000 grant from the US Department of Energy.
Molly Cavaleri—a tree physiologist who studies how ecosystems are responding to climate change at Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science—is thrilled to be heading the study in the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico.
“This is the first field experiment of its kind ever done in a tropical forest,” she says. “We will be manipulating the environment, warming the leaves and branches of the canopy as well as the smaller plants on the forest floor, not just observing.”
Forests of all kinds help control greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere because trees take in and store more CO2 than they put out. But unlike forests in temperate climates, where temperatures vary widely from season to season and trees have adapted to those changes, tropical forests grow in consistently warm climates, and no one knows how or even if they can acclimate if those climates get hotter.
And they are getting hotter and will continue to do so, climate experts say. “Within 20 years, the new minimum temperatures in the tropics will be hotter than the current maximums,” says Cavaleri.
The Michigan Tech researcher and two other research ecologists are leading the study: Tana Wood, from the Puerto Rico Conservation Foundation and adjunct scientist with the U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Sasha Reed with the U.S. Geological Survey. Eoin Brodie from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will join them as a collaborator.
“It’s unusual for three early-career women to be spearheading a project of this size and significance,” Cavaleri noted.
Michigan Tech graduate student Alida Mau is already in Puerto Rico, taking measurements in the forest. Cavaleri and her colleagues will be heating the soil and small trees on the forest floor with infrared lamps and running warming cables under the leaves of the canopy of full-grown trees, then collecting data about the responses of leaves, roots, and soil.
“We want to know how sensitive tropical forests are to warming, what physiological changes it will cause, particularly how it affects the trees’ ability to store CO2,” Cavaleri said. “If we tip them over a threshold where it’s too warm, they may not be able to take up as much CO2. They may even start giving off more CO2, which could lead to more warming.”
Once they have warmed the trees and measured the changes, Cavaleri, Reed and Wood plan to use the data to help develop better predictive models of the effects of climate change on tropical forests, an effort funded by the USGS Powell Center. “The data will help us understand what is happening globally and what is likely to happen in the future, Cavaleri explained.
She also added, “We don’t know what we are going to find, so we are not advocating any particular policy.”
Cavaleri said working in Puerto Rico is a pleasure, much easier than conducting research in other tropical locales. “There is electricity, no problem with permits, a Forest Service research station with dormitories,” she said. “There aren’t even any venomous snakes.”
Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
Jennifer Donovan | newswise
Endangered corals smothered by sponges on overfished Caribbean reefs
28.04.2015 | PeerJ
Traffic emissions may pollute 1 in 3 Canadian homes
22.04.2015 | University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
Scientists from Nepal, Switzerland and Germany was now able to show how erosion processes caused by the monsoon are mirrored in the sediment load of a river crossing the Himalaya.
In these days, it was again tragically demonstrated that the Himalayas are one of the most active geodynamic regions of the world. Landslides belong to the...
A world-class prime systems integrator and electronic systems provider known for its rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is currently developing a new space transportation system called the Dream Chaser.
The ultimate aim is to construct a multi-mission-capable space utility vehicle, while accelerating the overall development process for this critical capability...
Today, textiles are used for more than just clothes or bags – they are high tech materials for high-tech applications. High-tech textiles must fulfill a number of functions and meet many requirements. That is why the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC dedicated some major developing work to this most intriguing research area. The result can now be seen at Techtextil trade show in Frankfurt from 4 to 7 May. On display will be novel textile-integrated sensors, a unique multifunctional coating system for textiles and fibers, and textile processing of glass, carbon, and ceramics fibers to fiber preforms.
Thin materials and new kinds of sensors now make it possible to integrate silicone elastomer sensors in textiles. They are suitable for applications in medical...
KAIST researchers published an article on the development of a novel technique to precisely track the 3-D positions of optically-trapped particles having complicated geometry in high speed in the April 2015 issue of Optica.
Daejeon, Republic of Korea, April 23, 2015--Optical tweezers have been used as an invaluable tool for exerting micro-scale force on microscopic particles and...
A very small and rare species of shark is swimming its way through scientific literature. But don't worry, the chances of this inches-long vertebrate biting...
23.04.2015 | Event News
23.04.2015 | Event News
13.04.2015 | Event News
30.04.2015 | Earth Sciences
30.04.2015 | Life Sciences
30.04.2015 | Press release