Fund for Climate Solutions awards climate research projects

FCS Spring 2021

The Fund for Climate Solutions has awarded six grants in its latest semi-annual funding competition, bringing the total awarded to thirty three grants, and $3.66 million. Founded in 2018, the Fund enables Woodwell Climate scientists to pursue their boldest ideas more quickly and nimbly than they could through traditional funding routes. This round of grantees features multiple projects leveraging novel technologies to gain important insights into carbon cycling around the globe.

The role of managed forests and wood products in reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
Submitted by: 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.

Photo by Chris Linder

Quantifying thermally driven plant stress along forest edges in the Brazilian Amazon
Submitted by: 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.

Photo by Alexander Nassikas

Building capacity to monitor and manage climate impacts on nitrogen pollution and carbon cycling in Cape Cod rivers
Submitted by: 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.

Rapid soil carbon assessment
Submitted by: 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.

Developing an Indigenous partnership for climate change adaptation in interior Alaska
Submitted by: 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.

Photo by Paulo Brando

Autonomous low-cost automated aquatic methane measurement systems
Submitted by: 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.

The Fund for Climate Solutions is donor-supported. If you are interested in learning more about contributing to the Fund for Climate Solutions, please contact Chief Philanthropic Officer Leslie Kolterman at or (617) 939-6284.