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An integrated european scientific infrastructure for global change studies on forest and agroforest ecosystems utilising face technology

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Tall trees can increase carbon sequestration

The relationship between carbon levels and biomass has long been known albeit not fully understood. In an effort to gain more knowledge and understanding of this relationship an EC funded project grew and analysed several hectares of poplar trees.

Climate Change and Environment

To fully understand the effect of global changeon biospheres, the experimental forests had to be specifically designed at an ecosystem level. Lab tests or small-scale experiments can provide information, but conditions are not as closely matched to real-life situations as desired. The EUROFACE project therefore set out to grow a series of forest over a nine hectare area to be compared with six experimental plots. Each hectare of forest with one type of poplar would support 5,000 trees and these would then be used to assess elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations over a long-term period. This ecosystem-scaled project has had a spin off benefit - found primarily in the fact that it supports enough biomass to encourage investigations by numerous other research scientists. Armed with this amount of data, they can conduct investigations into a variety of different aspects of an ecosystem's response to CO2 enrichment. The experimental plot was divided into six fields, with three different poplar genotypes planted at a density of 10,000 trees per hectare. Each tree was spaced one square metre apart and after the three year long growth cycle, the trees reached a height of almost ten metres. A second rotation cycle later produced trees of twelve metres high, and in both cases, the total biomass of the trees were given to an electrical power plant to help produce C-neutral electrical power. While the supply of timber for the production of energy proved to be an added bonus to the project research, its initial cause was to establish an infrastructure the larger scientific community could benefit from. Furthermore, the uptake and storage of carbon under conditions of global change can be quantified. Net primary production of the experimental plots showed an increase of up to 36% on the control. This being the case, rising atmospheric CO2 could increase the potential for carbon sequestration. Further research and developmental support is sought, with current results available for demonstration.

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