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Research Abstracts Online
January 2009 - March 2010

Main TOC ....... College TOC

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
Department of Forest Resources

PI: Peter B. Reich

Boreal Forest Warming at an Ecotone in Danger: B4WARMED

The global climate system is being altered by anthropogenic emissions of CO2 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 experiment will enable us to assess the potential for climate change to alter future forest composition by experimentally warming forest plots (with infrared lamps and soil-heating cables) and documenting the effects on establishment, growth, and survival of seedlings of ten important tree species.

The design, scale, and duration of the experiment require a large database that will be expanded to a multilevel structure. They are developing a SQL database; MSI is providing staff assistance and data storage.

Group Members

Sarah Hobbie, Research Associate
Rebecca Montgomery, Faculty Collaborator
Jacek Oleksyn, Research Associate
Roy Rich, Research Associate
Artur Stefanski, Visiting Researcher
Kirk Wythers, Research Associate