The core of their research focuses on measuring carbon dynamics to determine the productivity of the forest using an Eddy Covariance System. The Eddy Covariance System works by measuring changes in water vapor and carbon dioxide concentration as quickly as 10 times per second. When an eddy (air bubble) passes through the device, it is able to measure these variables. This accelerated collection of factors allows the scientists to see even slight variations in the carbon levels in ACF.
The eddy covariance system, which has been in place at ACF for over 20 years, has endured drought, hurricanes, harvesting, and prescribed burns. Practices such as prescribed burning are used as a management technique to restore forest ecosystems. These factors have led to a decrease in overall tree cover over time.
“What's really fascinating is that the amount of carbon that the ecosystem is taking up has not decreased. So even though you have fewer trees, the ecosystem is still sucking up a lot of carbon,” explains Vogel.
Traditionally in ecosystem theory, an ecosystem will lose its ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere over time. Surprisingly, the results do not show a decrease in that ability at ACF.
The research Dr. Vogel and Dr. Bracho conduct on eddy covariance in UF’s ACF provides vital information on the resilience of Florida’s pine savanna ecosystems. Their research sheds light on the future of carbon cycling potential in forests, and will pave the way for landowners to utilize management practices that are mutually beneficial for themselves and the environment.
Dr. Bracho-Garillo explains how instruments on the tower, like the sonic anemometer he is holding, are used to measure variables such as wind speed, net radiation, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and relative humidity.
Vogel recognizes, “I think the pressure on these forests to promote land development perspective is going to cause us to make some hard decisions about what we value.”
Author: Bailey Hutchinson
Bailey Hutchinson is an undergraduate student studying Agricultural Education and Communication with a specialization in Leadership Development at the University of Florida.
Email Bailey Hutchinson at email@example.com with any questions or comments about this project.
Photos taken by Bailey Hutchinson