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Global Change Research in the USDA Forest Service

Atmosphere/Biosphere Gas and Energy Exchange Research

Atmosphere/Biosphere Gas and Energy Exchange research examines the way in which climate and atmospheric chemistry shape and are shaped by the biological world. This research is conducted at scales from the regional to the extremely local, and is focused on: (1) the carbon cycle and carbon budget with particular attention to the transfers of carbon between soils, water, the atmosphere, and the biosphere; (2) greenhouse gas (CO2, CH4, N2O, H2O) exchanges with terrestrial ecosystems; and (3) regional and local climate change scenarios. The objective of this research is to understand the flow of gases and energy between the atmosphere and the biosphere, anticipate ways this flow might change, and identify means by which land use and forest management strategies might contribute to mitigating and adapting to global change.

A number of methodologies are applied to this program element. Measurements of the atmosphere adjacent to plants and plant communities are currently being made to determine biogenic gas fluxes--especially CO2 and CH4. Soils are monitored to determine trends in carbon storage and to develop an understanding of the processes that control the flux of carbon between soils, aquatic systems, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. Mechanistic models for individual species, functional groupings, and specific ecosystems are under development to describe processes of carbon sequestration and allocation, water balance, and gas exchange. The models also predict changes in responses resulting from natural and human induced stresses. Biogeochemical soil models that couple climate to nutrient budgets, soil organisms, soil structure, function, and productivity are being developed. A modeling framework will connect existing and new models at the variety of scales necessary to predict ecosystem responses to climate changes and climate responses to ecosystem changes.