Research Abstracts Online
2008 - March 2009
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
Department of Forest Resources
PI: Peter B. Reich
B4WARMED: Boreal Forest Warming at an Ecotone in Danger
The global climate system is being altered by anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, increasing temperatures worldwide, and particularly at northern higher latitudes. The pace of global climate change, including warming, is expected to accelerate in the coming century, as atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to increase. The Minnesota climate has migrated 70 miles north in the past 50 years, and may migrate 125-250 miles further north in the next 50 years.
This group’s field experiment, B4WARMED, addresses the question of what this warming will do to the forests. Northern Minnesota is a focal point of potential climate warming impacts because it sits at the transition—or ecotone—between the boreal and temperate forest zones. Most tree species in these forests (like aspen, spruce, and birch) are common in the boreal forests to the north in Canada or in temperate maple-oak forests common further south and east. Increasing oak-maple dominance in forest communities under a warmer future would represent a shift from the area’s boreal heritage. However, both the northern and temperate tree species may perform poorly under warmer conditions. If so, neither the current forest trees nor their potential replacements may be well suited to the future climate. This four-year experiment uses infrared lamps and soil-heating cables to warm both plants and soil and document the effects on establishment, growth, and survival of seedlings of ten important tree species.
The researchers are in the process of building a MySQL database that is automatically populated with data in real time. MSI staff are also assisting with creating visualizations of the data, and MSI is providing server space for data storage.
Artur Stefanski, Staff
Roy Rich, Research Associate