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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

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Climate, Fire, and Carbon Cycle Sciences

Climate, Fire, and Carbon Cycle Sciences

Research Focus

[Photo:] landscape view of Howland Forest with FLUX tower.Carbon, Water, and Energy Exchange

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere are increasing and considered a primary cause of climate change.  We want to learn more about the potential for forests to absorb and store carbon.  We collect ecological and meteorological data and measure carbon dioxide and water vapor uptake and loss by the forest in order to better understand the physiology of the forest and its relationship to weather and the functioning of the carbon cycle.  Results are being used to improve climate models and our understanding of tree growth.

[photo:]  Tree that died during a drought in a Michigan forest.Climate and Air Pollution Impacts

Climate change (changes in the atmospheric temperature and precipitation) and air pollution (changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere) both have large impacts on forest ecosystems. The goal of climate change research is to understand and project the effects of climate change and air pollution on forests and river basins of the northeastern and north central United States, and to develop policy and management options for minimizing impacts on societal benefits of forests. Increasingly, climate change is affecting our ecosystems and land managers need to include the best available science about impacts and adaptation in their policies and forest management plans.

 [Photo:] Fall Foliage from Argyle, ME Flux Tower

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Land managers require information and tools to help them sustain ecosystem function during climate change. Additionally, greenhouse gas mitigation through carbon sequestration and offsets is receiving increased interest and attention. We develop tools, synthesize available information, facilitate discussion and planning, and study the potential effectiveness of management techniques in response to climate change.

[image:] Map of average summer net radiation flux at the surface.Effects of Land Management on Climate

The goal of this research area is improve our understanding of how changes to forests and other land surfaces feed back to the climate system.  We aim to quantify and describe the physical and biological processes that are impacted by forest management and land-use activities that potentially drive climate variability and change.

Fire in New Jersey pine barrens, with red firetruck in foreground.Fire, Fuel, and Atmosphere Interactions

The goals of this research are to 1) develop new insight into the basic physical and chemical processes that govern fire behavior, fire danger, and fire emissions, and 2) develop new predictive fire-fuel-atmosphere interaction tools and models that can be incorporated into the next generation physics-based fire modeling and global fire danger assessment systems.

[photo:] Symbiotic mycorrhizal fungus on pine roots helps trees get nutrients from the soil.Soil Processes and Environmental Change

Soils sustain ecosystem health and productivity by providing nutrients and water to plants, storing the majority of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, filtering pollutants from water, and providing habitat for a diverse assemblage of soil organisms. We study how the capacity of soils to perform these functions is sensitive to climate change, air pollution, forest management, human and natural disturbances, and invasive species.

Last Modified: 04/22/2009