Fund for Climate Solutions

A unique funding source for a time of urgency

 
The Fund for Climate Solutions supports scientific research that drives solutions for controlling the climate crisis.

Launched in 2018, the Fund for Climate Solutions (FCS) is an internal, Center-wide granting program that funds our high-impact, leading edge science.

FCS provides a critical means to respond to time-sensitive opportunities, and to make seed investments which can lead to larger support from external sources and exponential progress toward climate solutions.

looking up along the trunk into a tall tree Play

Twice a year, our principal investigators participate in an internal competitive awards process for FCS grant funding. These grants advance our mission of producing/developing science-based solutions to the climate crisis and help to:

  • extend or augment crucial research initiatives,
  • seed new projects that offer breakthrough policy or scientific impact
  • allow startup projects to get off the ground to show proof of concept work for outside funding opportunities.
  • enable immediate follow up on promising new research results without the delay of searching for additional funding.

Beyond these direct benefits to our mission, the Fund helps the Center to attract and retain the most inventive, dedicated researchers in the world.

To date we have raised $6.1M toward our $10M goal, and have awarded $3.66M in grants to fund 33 projects.

Above: Rob Stenson and Anya Suslova sampling the Santuit River on Cape Cod.

photo by Alexander Nassikas

A key example of how FCS grants help expand the impact of innovative climate science is a grant that funded the first ground-based monitoring station in the Arctic to measure the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from thawing permafrost, demonstrating that some regions are becoming carbon sources in the winter. The initial results from this project led to a $2.4 million Moore Foundation grant for additional monitoring stations to cover much of the Arctic. This monitoring network will create critical ground-based data for reliable prediction of carbon emissions from permafrost thaw.

The Center is working with our partners at The Belfer Center at Harvard University to make sure that this critical science becomes part of climate policy going forward. The new calculations on permafrost emissions also need to be incorporated into the IPCC global carbon budget. The goal is to have this information available for the next Conference of the Parties (COP), the United Nation’s Annual Conference on Climate Change, so that countries will be inspired to commit to their most ambitious carbon budget goals to date.

stringing cables on the flux tower
installing a flux tower in Alaska

Above: Paul Lefebvre (left) and Sarah Ludwig (right) installing a flux tower in Alaska, October 2019.

photos by Chris Linder

The new information from our permafrost research has demonstrated that the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) budget significantly understates global carbon emissions, and reveals that the world has significantly less time to lower emissions before the global system reaches a critical tipping point.

Below are the most recently awarded projects of the Winter 2021 grant cycle.

Project leads: Dr. Richard Birdsey, Dr. Andréa Castanho, and Kathleen Savage

Carbon absorption and storage by forests is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving the goal of net zero emissions by mid-century. However, there is controversy centering on whether it is more effective to let forests grow to their full capacity to store carbon in trees and soils, or to manage forests more intensively to store carbon in harvested wood products, such as mass timber. This work will directly address this debate by developing rigorous inventories and projections of carbon storage by different U.S. forest ecosystems under varying management and harvest scenarios. The project promises critical insight into the past and prospective role of forests and the forest sector in our national carbon budget and climate goals.

Project leads: Drs. Michael Coe, Marcia Macedo, and Paulo Brando

The impacts of deforestation—dramatically reduced biodiversity and carbon storage, and increased local surface temperatures—are not limited to cleared areas. Adjacent forests may experience heat stress and degradation that impairs their ability to move water through the system and sequester carbon. One recent study estimated that forest edge degradation could increase the carbon footprint of deforestation by a third. This project will blend on-the-ground measurements with cutting edge drone measurements of the forest canopy and newly available satellite data to delve into the processes and ramifications of forest edge degradation, on scales ranging from individual trees to entire landscapes.

Project leads: Drs. Max Holmes and Marcia Macedo

Climate change is altering the flow of rivers, with potentially profound effects on the coastal waters they feed. Nowhere is this more true than on Cape Cod, where nitrogen from septic systems and fertilizer run-off have degraded coastal ecosystems. For five years, the Cape Cod Rivers Observatory has monitored water quality in several Cape Cod rivers. This has yielded important insights, but measurements of the amount of water flowing through those rivers is needed to calculate their full impact on coastal waters—and that data currently is available for only one river. This project will initiate long-term discharge monitoring on four additional rivers, significantly expanding our ability to understand the interacting effects of climate change and human activity on coastal ecosystems.

Project lead: Dr. Jonathan Sanderman

Interest in the potential of soil carbon storage as a climate solution has grown exponentially in recent years. But the majority of emerging protocols and markets rely on models—not measurement—of soil carbon, making it difficult to gauge how effective they are. There is an urgent need for accurate, low-cost soil carbon monitoring technologies that can be deployed widely. This project addresses that need, leveraging newly available handheld scanner technology in conjunction with ongoing work to develop open-source data analysis tools. The goal is to test whether a field-deployable soil carbon measurement system can be accurate enough for carbon market applications.

Project lead: Dr. Sue Natali

The Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the globe, setting off dramatic changes with devastating impacts on local communities. Alaska residents know better than anyone how their environment is changing. However, there is an urgent need for partnerships between Arctic communities and scientists to guide and implement relevant environmental monitoring and climate risk assessment. The project will substantially expand Woodwell’s collaborations with Arctic Indigenous communities by partnering with the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), an Alaska Native nonprofit organization, which is a consortium of 42 Athabascan tribes across Interior Alaska.

Project leads: Kathleen Savage, Dr. Marcia Macedo, Dr. Sue Natali, Dr. Glenn Bush, and Paul Lefebvre

Lakes, ponds, and wetlands—both natural and human-made—can be significant sources of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. But the variability of these emissions over time and across relatively small geographic areas has made it difficult to produce reliable global estimates of these emissions. This project will help address the need for accurate, high-resolution data on methane emissions from aquatic systems by developing novel, automated measurement systems. These innovative sensors build on Woodwell’s decades of technical expertise, and promise to advance our understanding of carbon dynamics in aquatic ecosystems in the same way that our work in temperate forests did over 20 years ago.

Below: Community members assist Polaris Project student Derris Funmaker (left) and Dr. Sue Natali (right) with permafrost sampling.

To learn more about the Fund for Climate Solutions and become involved, contact Leslie Kolterman, Chief Philanthropic Officer, at lkolterman@woodwellclimate.org.