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Scientists point to forests for carbon storage solutions
Date:9/8/2008

ed on the carbon content of wood, leaf litter, debris and roots as well as the release of carbon that occurs when soil and plants decompose. The meteorological measurements analyze the ongoing carbon exchange between the forest and atmosphere using instrumentation available at only a select few labs in the world.

In the case of the Michigan forest, carbon storage capacity is also affected by the repeated clear-cut harvesting and fire disturbance that occurred a century ago as well as climate variations that the scientists have documented and the species and age of trees the forest comprises. These conditions can be used to project future carbon storage trends in similar forests in the United States and around the world.

The scientists have recorded a rising average air temperature of almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) and decreased solar radiation of 5 percent over the past 25 years at the Michigan study site. The current average temperature is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Extending such changes to 2030, the researchers suggest the annual carbon storage affected by these climate changes will be reduced by between 1.3 percent and 28.5 percent, to a possible low of about 980 pounds of carbon per acre.

"We weren't surprised by the annual temperature increase, because that's happening everywhere, but the decline in solar radiation was very surprising," Curtis said. "It might seem like a small difference, but it's important from the standpoint of plants."

Plants use the energy from sunlight to manufacture carbohydrates and release oxygen through photosynthesis. Curtis said scientists believe the rising temperatures combined with the presence of water led to the increase in cloudy days.

The Michigan forest's storage capacity also is affected by its land use history. A period of deforestation between 1880 and 1920 was followed by abandonment of the land and a rash of wildfires. Forests with similar hist
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Contact: Peter Curtis
Curtis.7@osu.edu
614-292-0835
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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