One of the key challenges BIFoR addresses is the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels in our air are rising, mostly due to our use of fossil fuels. As CO2 rises, so does the world’s temperature. Trees and the soil around them help us capture some of this CO2. In a giant experiment in a Staffordshire woodland, we are pumping CO2 around trees to simulate the atmosphere we’re predicted to have in 2050. This helps us see how the woodland responds – do the trees grow faster, locking away more carbon, or will changes in the soil and insect life cause problems? Learning about the effects of increased CO2 helps us plant woodland most likely to survive and thrive in the future.
The facility is located on private land in Staffordshire (about a 1-hour drive from the main University).
Read our article written for the University of Birmingham series of essays 'Addressing the Climate Challenge' 'Not just standing there: the carbon utility of established forest'
BIFoR FACE research is now part of an exhibition at The Exchange in Birmingham CIty Centre. Find us down in the vault in the Air We Breath exhibition.
BIFoR FACE is a so-called 'second generation' forest FACE site. After a 'first generation' of forest FACE experiments had built our knowledge base on how young forest plantations are affected by increasing atmospheric CO2, the scientific community has long argued the urgent need for upscaled experiments in mature, complex forest ecosystems.
BIFoR-FACE is only the second such facility worldwide, and the only one in the Northern Hemisphere. Recognised with awards for its sensitive construction and low-impact integration into the existing woodland, the facility enables the much needed real world experiment to improve our climate projections and evaluate risks to forest ecosystems and the services they provide.
The facility was "switched on" on 3rd April 2017, coinciding with the spring flush of the oak trees, crowning three years of careful planning, construction and testing.
2021 marks the fifth growing seasons wherein, three 30-metre-wide plots of mature oak forest have been immersed in an atmosphere with elevated CO2 concentration, topped up from current values of just above 400 ppm (parts per million) to 550 ppm, a roughly 38% increase, which the entire globe is likely to see by 2050.
The technology works and we have consistently achieved our performance targets throughout the last four years (Hart et al, 2019). Please visit the following webpages to find out more information about the experimental design, flux tower and met masts, and our unique system of canopy access.
The BIFoR 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 is drawn from leading research groups across the world, each bringing their distinctive research expertise to bear.
Please visit the following webpages to find out details of; the University of Birmingham research team; current research projects; two NERC funded projects (QUINTUS & FACE Underground); our publications. A brief podcast is available to hear an overview of the results so far.
The fundamental research questions are:
- 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?
BIFoR FACE is also connected to long-term ecosystem research networks in the UK, continental Europe, and North America. This includes linking 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. We are part of the Ecological Continuity Trust long-term ecological experiments network.
Want to get involved?
Find out more about how to get your own research up and running at BIFoR FACE here or search for other ways to get involved for example volunteer / vacancies / conferences / fellowships / visiting fellowships / donate / sponsor / press.
Want to find out more?
Perhaps the best way to explore BIFoR FACE is by navigating through our "Virtual BIFoR FACE" tour. As you "walk" through the facility you can click on the numbered dots to see further written information or sometimes a video about an experiment.
We also have a YouTube channel which includes a 9 minute (virtual reality) tour of the BIFoR FACE facility with a commentary by Dr Rick Thomas. We offer the opportunity for 'in person' tours of the facility for stakeholder groups & encourage schools to visit. School teachers can find teaching resources related to the water and carbon cycle available on our "Education" webpage. Please do contact us if you would like organise a visit.
Follow us on social media for the most up to date news. Twitter @BIFoRUoB Instagram /biforuob