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Measuring carbon sequestration at Harvard Forest

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, by Fiona Jevon
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Hi! I’m Fiona, and I work for Leland Werden, Bill Munger, and the Wofsy Group at Harvard University. The project that I am involved with this summer is looking at the influence of understory vegetation on carbon sequestration in the Harvard Forest. This is one small part of a much larger project, which has been going on here for the last 20 years, centered on the eddy flux tower. Over the past two decades, this tower has been collecting data on the amount of carbon that is released and absorbed by the surrounding forest. This summer, I’m focusing on how the understory affects the finding that the Harvard Forest is in fact a sink for carbon, and has been absorbing a larger magnitude of carbon every year since the study began.

Daily, my job is to continue taking physical measurements in the plots surrounding the tower, in order to support the carbon data from the tower. This involves measuring tree growth, maintaining leaf litter traps and dendrometers, and taking LAI (leaf area index) measurements in each of the 34 plots. For my specific project, I have recently completed an understory survey of all woody plants in the plots measuring 1 cm to 10 cm DBH (diameter at breast height), which is over 1500 plants! Next, I will be measuring photosynthetic rate of some of these understory plants, using a LI-6400.

So far this summer, I have learned so much about the way in which scientists collect their data, and how seemingly simple measurements can take a serious amount of work. I have learned how to make and put on dendrometers, to identify the majority of woody plants in the Harvard Forest, to use an LAI and a LI-6400, and of course, I have also learned the basics of how an eddy flux tower works. It is especially interesting for me to be a part of an ongoing project, because I get to see how far we have come in understanding the factors that effect carbon sequestration, but also how much is left for us to discover.

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