One of the key challenges BIFoR addresses is the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.
In the video above, Professor Rob MacKenzie describes the focus of the institute's research and the importance of understanding how forests work.
The dynamic response of forests to environmental change, including climate change, is only partially understood. To increase understanding, have built a Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) experiment, set in mature, unmanaged, temperate woodland. It is located on private land in Staffordshire (about a 1-hour drive from the main University campus).
The facility also includes a new purpose built fieldwork compound and the beautifully restored Long Barn field study centre.
A woodland-FACE facility comprises a series of approximately cylindrical ring structures, as high as the tree canopy (around 25 m) and 30 m wide, supporting pipes that deliver CO2 in such a way that the woodland inside the ring is immersed in elevated CO2 but the rest of the woodland remains largely unaffected.
FACE experiments require bespoke control engineering that responds rapidly to changes in wind speed and direction so that CO2 is introduced into the ring always on the upwind side and in just sufficient quantity to maintain the target concentration. BIFoR FACE control engineering is provided by our partner Brookhaven National Laboratory.
(3, 3, 2) design
There will be three “treatment” plots, receiving elevated CO2. These are matched with three “control” plots, which are identical in every way except that ambient air is used rather than air enriched in CO2. A further level of control is provided by three completely undisturbed plots to which power and data are provided. Each plot will have internal splitting by tree species and canopy – especially splitting into oak upper canopy and hazel coppice layer – giving a (3, 3, 2) experimental design for most studies.
The BIFoR FACE facility will address the following fundamental questions regarding the ability of woodland to capture carbon dioxide:
- Does elevated CO2 increase the carbon storage within a mature woodland ecosystem?
- Do other macro- or micro-nutrients – i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus - limit the uptake of carbon in this ecosystem?
- What aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem structure-and-function alter when the ecosystem is exposed to elevated CO2?
- How can lessons from the global network of second-generation Forest FACE experiments be generalised to other woodlands and forests?
The FACE facility is intended to be a platform with which a wide variety of research questions can be tested. The research team at BIFoR FACE will be drawn from leading research groups across the world, each bringing their distinctive research expertise to bear. Want to become involved? Find out more in our volunteering, partnership and postgraduate study pages and follow us on twitter @BIFoRUoB for the most up to date news.
BIFoR will also connect to long-term ecosystem research networks in the UK, continental Europe, and North America. This includes linking our keystone experimental facility, BIFoR FACE closely with the already operational EucFACE facility in Australia and the AmazonFACE facility in Brazil, and any other forest FACE facilities built in the future. Find out more about Partnership working here.