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40-Year Study Reveals New Insights on Carbon
The middle-aged forests of the East Coast may not look like carbon-storing powerhouses. But New England forests take in enough carbon each year to offset nearly half the region's household carbon dioxide emissions. A new study by HF ecologist Audrey Barker-Plotkin and Summer Research Program alumna Kate Eisen explores how trees are getting the job done.
The study, published this month in the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, is a meticulous, 4-decade record of the growth of more than 6,000 individual trees. Today this forest is about 110 years old, and it has grown steadily over the past 42 years; biomass accumulation has not yet leveled off.
Measuring trees in the study area - a 7-acre stretch of woods dominated by red oak and red maple - takes a crew of several scientists about three weeks to complete. The plot has been re-measured 4 times since the initial census by soil scientist Walter Lyford in 1969.
Such a detailed, long-term study like this one is scientifically rare.
The research team is planning the next census for the plot's 50th anniversary, in 2019.
- Learn more about this study and Lyford Plot on the Witness Tree blog.
- Read the full press release.
- Read the original scientific paper: Forty years of forest measurements support steadily increasing aboveground biomass in a maturing, Quercus-dominant northeastern forest
- Explore data from the Lyford grid.
(photo of Walter Lyford's hand-drawn map courtesy of the Harvard Forest Archive)