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, we 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).
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. Recently recognised with awards for its sensitive construction and low-impact integration into the existing woodland, the facility will enable 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. For four entire growing seasons, 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 great news is the technology works and we have consistently achieved our performance targets throughout the last four years. More information on the experimental design, flux tower and met masts, and our unique system of canopy access is available on these webpages
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 is drawn from leading research groups across the world, each bringing their distinctive research expertise to bear. Details of the University of Birmingham research team and further details of the current research projects, including two NERC funded projects (QUINTUS & FACE Underground) can be accessed online. Some examples of research collaborations underway can be found on the "Research here" page.
Want to become involved? Find out more about how to get your own research up and running at BIFoR FACE here
BIFoR will also connect 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.
Our gallery of images & "Videos" shows the true scale of the research under but perhaps the best way to explore BIFoR FACE is by navigating through our "Virtual BIFoR" tour. As you "walk" through the facility you can click on the yellow dots to see further information about the experiment underway or to watch a video (see image right). There is a 9 minute (virtual reality) tour of the facility available to watch online. We also offer the opportunity for tours of the facility for stakeholder groups and 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.
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