A Birds-Eye View of Carbon Flow

By Scott Pokswinski and Kevin Hiers, Fire Science Lab

Carbon Flux Tower

Forest productivity and fire go hand in hand in the Southeast. The burning of live and dead fuels and the rate at which forests can incorporate the resulting atmospheric carbon will be a key to understanding the role of fire in the carbon cycle. This is particularly interesting for second growth forests on old agricultural lands, which dominate forest cover in the Southeast U.S. Dr. Kevin Robertson at Tall Timbers documented that, when burned, these recovering forested lands provide critical ecosystems services, including carbon sequestration.

To better understand the ebb and flow of carbon in forests, the Tall Timbers Fire Science lab has partnered with Dr. Gregory Starr of the University of Alabama to install an eddy flux tower over the canopy of a second growth loblolly pine on Tall Timbers to measure ecosystem productivity.

A carbon dioxide infrared gas analyzer paired to a 3D sonic anemometer can detect minute changes in air flow and concentration of carbon dioxide as air moves in an out of the stand. These sensors will log the flow of carbon above the canopy of the forest for the next decade 10 times a second. The data that the tower collects will be integrated with data from several towers throughout the Southeast that Dr. Starr manages to create a region-wide dataset encompassing several forest types, including native groundcover and longleaf pine plantations of a similar age.  Relating how climate cycles drive changes in productivity of recovering southern pine forests is important to modeling future climate-fire interactions in the Southeast.

Birds Eye View of Loblolly Pine Canopy on Tall Timbers

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