EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

From branch to forest to globe: how do tree choices regarding growth affect forest response to elevated CO2 levels?

Klaske van Wijngaarden1,2, Joshua Larsen1, Thomas Pugh1, Benjamin Smith2, and Belinda Medlyn2
Klaske van Wijngaarden et al.
  • 1University of Birmingham, The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, United Kingdom
  • 2Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury institute for the environment, Australia

Anthropocene impact on atmospheric carbon has led to increased efforts to better understand the carbon cycle in terrestrial vegetation. Forests and their natural ability to assimilate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air have increasingly been incorporated into climate change mitigation policies. The increase in global CO2 levels has also been shown to cause photosynthetic enhancement, although the extent of this CO2-fertilization effect varies across vegetation type, age, species and the availability of other resources. An important knowledge gap for the projected mitigation function of (future) forests is the currently unknown fate of this additional carbon as a result of the increased photosynthetic activity [1]. Woody biomass is still thought to harbour a substation fraction of the unaccounted for carbon [2] and by including smaller woody compartments to the well-represented stem diameter datasets this research project aims to provide more details to the standing and turned over woody biomass inventories. The branch and twig compartments might detach faster from trees pre-mortality under elevated CO2, increasing the turn-over rate of carbon within forest stands where this has previously gone unnoticed. To determine the choices of trees regarding growth under future CO2 levels observation will be collected in two second-generation Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facilities: BIFoR FACE, in Staffordshire UK and EucFACE in Sydney Australia. By making stand scale inventories using Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) for standing biomass and line transects along with litter traps for fallen woody tissue, the fluxes of newly grown wood under eCO2 versus wood exposed to long term ambient concentrations can be compared. With additional comparisons between the two facilities, subsequent environmental factors and weather events to follow so that predictive carbon budget models can be improved. The increased CO2 concentrations at these sites reach the levels estimated to be the global ambient in 30-40 years. In the current phase of this research project, the datasets resulting from the first fieldwork campaign and pipelines for array scale TLS analysis and turnover expansion factors are constructed.

[1] Jiang, M., Medlyn, B. E., Drake, J. E., Duursma, R. A., Anderson, I. C., Barton, C. V., ... & Ellsworth, D. S. (2020). The fate of carbon in a mature forest under carbon dioxide enrichment. Nature, 580(7802), 227-231.
[2] Walker, A. P., De Kauwe, M. G., Medlyn, B. E., Zaehle, S., Iversen, C. M., Asao, S., ... & Norby, R. J. (2019). Decadal biomass increment in early secondary succession woody ecosystems is increased by CO 2 enrichment. Nature communications, 10(1), 1-13.


How to cite: van Wijngaarden, K., Larsen, J., Pugh, T., Smith, B., and Medlyn, B.: From branch to forest to globe: how do tree choices regarding growth affect forest response to elevated CO2 levels?, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-894,, 2022.

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