National Ecosystem Monitoring Network Taps Eastern Threat Center Research Sites

Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Emrys Treasure checks instruments on research tower. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Emrys Treasure checks instruments on research tower. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

In eastern North Carolina, three towers outfitted with state-of-the-art sensors are continuously measuring the movement of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and energy between the atmosphere and land surface. These “flux” towers — located on U.S. Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center research sites that include a loblolly pine plantation, a clearcut plantation, and a forested wetland — provide real-time information that researchers around the world can use to study forest ecosystem responses to climatic changes.

Recently, the AmeriFlux Network Management Project selected these research sites for inclusion in a national network of long-term ecological monitoring stations as part of its new planning effort. These core sites will provide an open platform for collaboration with other researchers as well as validation and development for research models. Researchers overseeing the monitoring sites within the AmeriFlux network are responsible for open data sharing, and facilitate research by other scientists on the research sites.

Forest Service and North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers based at the Eastern Threat Center’s Raleigh, NC, office use data from the flux towers and on-the-ground observations to examine the effects of climate variability and forest management practices on forest ecosystem health, water supply, and carbon sequestration. Findings from this research can inform sustainable forest management that contributes to broader efforts to lessen the impacts of climate change. “Our long-term collaboration with NCSU and the international flux measurement community as a whole has been critical for us to understand the ecological processes of coastal forested wetlands in mitigating climate change and to develop models to quantify regional forest ecosystem services under a changing climate,” says Eastern Threat Center research hydrologist Ge Sun.

To date, the AmeriFlux Network Management Project has selected ten research groups operating about 30 individual flux sites for participation in the national monitoring network. “We are pleased to be selected as one of the AmeriFlux core sites to continue playing an active role in the network of global flux measurements,” says Sun. According to Asko Noormets, a cooperating scientist and lead principal investigator for the project from NCSU, “Participating in this new phase of the AmeriFlux network will increase our research visibility, collaboration opportunities, and the use of our data in a variety of models to improve projections of climate change impacts on forests.” More AmeriFlux core research sites will be added in the coming months to round out the network and secure a national investment in monitoring ecosystem health in a changing environment.

For more information: Ge Sun, Eastern Threat Center research hydrologist, or 919-515-9498

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