Michigan forests have been responding to climate change since the industrial revolution. Institutions with long term data on forest ecosystems are critical when it comes to monitoring, sharing, and interpreting the ways in which forests respond to stressors.
At UMBS, our 100+ years of data and placed-based understanding position us to answer questions that universities and field stations without this longevity simply cannot. For the last 20 years, the UMBS AmeriFlux tower has been collecting data on how forests grow and exchange carbon with the atmosphere. While the tower collects atmospheric data, numerous researchers and students have been busy recording observations about the trees, understory, plants, and insects. Together, these data tell a vibrant story about how these forests work – and how they are changing. What happens when there is a fire, or an insect outbreak? What if winters start earlier? How does leaf material affect soil nutrients? Why are there more invasive plants now than 20 years ago? These are all questions being pursued in the footprint of our giant tower. When combined, this knowledge and discovery enables us to paint a picture of northern Michigan forests.
While our 150 foot tower may seem unique, it is part of an extensive network of sites all around the US and the world monitoring how forests grow and how carbon and water move between the atmosphere and the biosphere. Our tower has one of the best and longest-term datasets in the network, and is one of only a handful of towers with a focus on forest ecology. Researchers from all around the world use our data to benchmark global carbon models and understand what shapes forests at local, national, and global scales. While our focus and understanding of place in northern Michigan makes UMBS an incredible resource, our ties though projects like AmeriFlux make our work relevant for policy and science decisions that extend beyond our station and even our state. I hope you will read the adjoining article that highlights our AmeriFlux research program and how it is impacting science both locally and globally.
It’s beautiful in northern Michigan right now and there is a lot of energy at UMBS. If you are in the area, please stop by and say hello.
Dr. Aimée Classen