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Individual Highlight

Largest Climate Change Experiment on the Planet: SPRUCE

Photo of Instrumentation inside SPRUCE chamber. Oak Ridge National Laboratoy.Instrumentation inside SPRUCE chamber. Oak Ridge National Laboratoy.Snapshot : The Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change Experiment (SPRUCE) is stretching scientists’ ability to manipulate ecosystems to assess the effects of climate change (elevated temperature and carbon dioxide levels) in a high-carbon peatland in northern Minnesota. Because of the massive amount of carbon northern peatlands store, they will have dramatic feedbacks on global greenhouse gas emissions. Research at SPRUCE aims to understand climate change processes affecting both carbon and organisms, which will improve data used in global circulation models and allow scientists to better predict climate in the future.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Kolka, Randy 
Research Location : Marcell Experimental Forest in Northern Minnesota
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1019


Although they cover only 3 percent of Earth’s land surface, peatlands store about 30 percent of the total soil carbon. Despite the uncertainty about their response to climate change, large-scale manipulations simulating climate change have not been conducted until SPRUCE (Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change Experiment). The SPRUCE experiment is an ambitious ecosystem-level experiment that is testing the response of high-carbon northern peatland ecosystems to increased temperatures and elevated carbon dioxide. Located at the Forest Service’s Marcell Experimental Forest near Grand Rapids, MN, the experiment is a collaboration between the Forest Service and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and many other collaborators. The manipulation is evaluating the response of the existing communities to a range of warming levels from ambient to plus 9 degrees Celsius, with and without elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), provided via large, open-top chambers. Both direct and indirect effects of these perturbations are being analyzed to refine models needed for full Earth system analyses. Belowground heating began in 2014, aboveground heating in 2015, and elevated CO2 treatments commenced in 2016. Responses to warming and interactions with increased atmospheric CO2 concentration will have important feedbacks on the atmosphere and climate.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • 20-plus other universities and partners
  • U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Program Areas