For the simple leaf is in fact a complex organ, from which Reich has extracted a series of key characteristics yielding significant predictive power: "so we can understand the evolution of the Mediterranean forest, the rainforest, the Arctic tundra, and how they will respond to climate change or rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2".
Reich is leader of a unique ongoing experiment (named BioCON) conducted in open grassland, rather than closed chambers, exploring ways in which plant communities will respond to three environmental changes already occurring on a global scale: increasing nitrogen deposition, increasing atmospheric CO2, and decreasing biodiversity. The team hope their results will give a more accurate picture of how much CO2 plants can absorb; a vital input to the international carbon trading agreements now being put in place.
"Thanks to these experiments we are better able though still not perfectly able to predict not only what kind of forest and grasslands we will have, but also whether we will have them in a given area and how they will respond in terms of their productivity, nutrient cycle and their health as we change things like temperature and CO2".
Reich is author of over 300 peer-reviewed publications, cited on more than 12,000 occasions, and since 2003, has figured among the ten most frequently cited Ecological and Environmental Scientists in the world. He began his scientific career with a B.A. in physics and creative writing at Goddard College (Vermont, United States), which he followed with a master's degree in forest ecology at the University of Missouri. He later obtained his Ph.D. in environmental biology and plant ecology from Cornell University, and since 2003 has held the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship at the University of Minnesota, where he has also been Regents Professor since 2007.
The award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category in the inaugur
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