photo by Dave Hollinger
Methane is second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in its contribution to human-induced climate change, thanks to its global warming potential—34x greater than CO2.
However, we understand very little about methane flux in forests, the processes and feedbacks that drive it, and how methane emissions or uptake will evolve with a changing climate.
At the Howland Research Forest, ME, we are taking on this priority for biological research and improving methane flux models. Our innovative, multi-scale, and cross-disciplinary study is identifying the conditions and mechanisms driving methane sink/source activity across soil moisture gradients in northern forests.
Led by Woodwell Climate Research Center, in collaboration with the University of Maine, Emory University, Arizona State University, San Diego State University, and the USDA Forest Service, this research uses new DNA/RNA sequencing techniques that allow us to study microbial traits. Measuring these traits across different environmental conditions ultimately helps us learn how microbes’ sequestration of methane in sub-boreal forests may be offsetting methane emitters globally, and how this may change under future climate conditions. The Howland Research Forest serves as a case study to identify drivers and functional relationships across wet to dry soils, and from soils to canopy.
Our work at Howland Forest has three main components:
Our study is providing new insights for carbon budgets into how methane uptake in northern forests may be offsetting methane emissions, as well as how these systems might shift to net emission under projections of increasing precipitation across the northeastern region of the United States. We are ensuring that this improved understanding reaches broad audiences through a range of activities:
Howland Research Forest is part of an international phenology camera network, hosted at Northern Arizona University. There are two cameras located at the Main tower site.
This project is supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology.