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U-M scientists remove thousands of aspens to glimpse forest's future
Date:5/23/2008

PELLSTON, Mich.---Armed with chainsaws and pry bars, University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues recently hastened the end for nearly 7,000 mature aspen and birch trees in a large-scale, long-term experiment to glimpse the Great Lakes region's future forests.

A band of bark was stripped from each tree to kill it without cutting it down.

The main goal of the federally funded experiment Forest Accelerated Succession Experiment (FASET) is to determine how much heat-trapping carbon dioxide forests of the Upper Midwest will remove from the air in coming decades.

Forests can help offset human-caused climate warming, and scientists want to know how big a role these particular forests will play.

The work began this month at the University of Michigan Biological Station near Pellston, at the northern tip of the state's Lower Peninsula. Project scientists say it's one of the largest experiments of its kind ever undertaken.

"Are the forests of the future going to be taking up more carbon than today's forests" That's the big-picture question, and we think the answer is, 'Yes, they will,'" said Christoph Vogel, a U-M forest ecologist.

"These aspens would naturally fall out, one at a time, over the next 20 to 30 years," he said. "By imposing this artificial treatment, we're doing it all at once. I think it will give us a good picture of what the forest will look like in 20 or 30 years."

If Vogel and his colleagues are right about a future rise in carbon storage, Great Lakes-area forests will play an increasingly important role in helping to soak up carbon dioxide (CO2), an invisible gas blamed for global warming.

But here's the big question to be addressed by FASET: Just how much CO2 will future forests remove"

Finding the answer is not as straightforward as it might seem. Scientists can't simply measure the current CO2 uptake and project that number into the future because the regio
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Contact: Jim Erickson
ericksn@umich.edu
734-647-1842
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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