|Greenhouse Gas Elements Building in Forests
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|September 17, 2003 -- Researchers at Michigan Technological University have received an $810,000 grant to continue one of the longest-running forestry field studies in the world. The three-year award from the National Science Foundation also includes funding for programs involving high school teachers.|
Kurt Pregitzer, professor of forest ecology at Michigan Tech, leads the project, which studies the unseen underground forest ecosystem.
The Michigan Gradient Study includes several experimental field stations in northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The researchers want to get to the root of how trees cope with increasing amounts of the greenhouse gases nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
Tree roots play a key role in processing the nitrogen and carbon for use as food. But the soil at the field stations now contains more nitrogen than the trees can use--a circumstance called nitrogen saturation.
Researchers have already found that excess nitrogen dissolves and is transported into ground and surface water.
"One concern is that more carbon and nitrogen are leaching out of the forest soil and into streams and lakes," Pregitzer said, which may have a negative effect on those aquatic systems. "We are trying to understand the mechanisms that control all of this."
For the first time, the project will involve school teachers.
Beginning next summer, the researchers will conduct workshops and training for secondary school teachers. These programs will use Michigan Tech's Ford Forestry Center, about 40 miles south of the main campus, and one of Pregitzer's test plots near Twin Lakes, about 30 miles west of campus.
"We will involve them in the research," Pregitzer said, "not only to give them a look at how we conduct the research, "but also to introduce them to the important policy issues involved--the effect of human activity on climate systems and forests."
The research team also includes Andy Burton, a research assistant professor at Michigan Tech, Don Zak, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, and Erik Lilleskov, a scientist with the USDA Forest Service North Central Research Station in Houghton.