Understanding carbon in ecosystems: biology, ecology, management, and environmental change
Why focus on carbon and ecosystems? Soils and plants store huge quantities of carbon. Disturbances that degrade ecosystems release this into the atmosphere – in forms such as carbon dioxide and methane – contributing to our changing climate. But soils and ecosystems are much more than reservoirs for carbon – their health is directly tied to water purification, flood prevention, maintenance of biodiversity, and agricultural production. Understanding how and why plants, animals, microbes and soils respond to environmental change will therefore help us understand the consequences for human and envrionmental well-being, and how we might manage them.
We use experimental and observational approaches to investigate these effects of global change, both in the field and laboratory. We primarily work across forests, agricultural lands, and grasslands in the United States.
The overall goal of our research is to provide the necessary mechanistic understanding required for reliable prediction of global change impacts on ecosystems, and their likely feedbacks to the climate system.
In addition, a number of us are involved in related research efforts to facilitate the development of a set of open tools and data that advance the synthesis and application of soil and ecosystem science to inform policy and practice. One such program isQuick Carbon, an approach designed to facilitate rapid measurement and verification of soil carbon in working landscapes.