The Federal Department of Energy has announced that an air-monitoring station, owned and operated by Indiana University in Morgan Monroe State Forest, will be fully funded for the next three years.
The station, which sits atop a 150-foot tower in the forest since its installation in 1998, monitors the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the forest ecosystem, as well as water vapor levels in the air.
It’s part of the AmeriFlux system of 120 such towers in the Western Hemisphere which, in turn, is part of the world-wide FluxNet system of 1000 towers.
Kim Novick, Assistant Professor at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says the data mined from this tower is very valuable and that’s why this tower’s operation was deemed worthy of more funding. We then asked Doctor Novick to summarize the findings from the tower’s measurement of carbon dioxide production and absorption over the period of its operation.
“As temperature has been increasing, the growing season has lengthened,” Novick says, “And since the leaves are on the trees longer, we’ve noticed that carbon absorption in the air has increased. We’ve also noticed over the past six or seven years that there’s been a tend toward dryer conditions, and this can counteract the effects of the longer growing season.”
During the first half of the monitoring period, there was a net increase in the amount of carbon taken up by plants in the forest.
However, the increasing dryness during the second half has negated the previous increase. The tower station can also monitor other green-house gases,
such as methane and nitrous oxide, but doesn’t do so, as their emission from relatively dry eco-systems like the Morgan-Monroe forest are negligible.
The tower receives the bulk of its funding from a federal government department, Novick respons about the sequestration cuts may have affected the local monitoring station.
“Generally, it’s become increasingly more difficult for scientists to get federal funds to support their research,” Novick says, “When you’re given other options to support your project, it’s something to be happy about.”
Listeners who are interested in visiting the tower individually or as a group can contact the researchers via Steve Chapman at IU Communications.