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Developing plans and partnerships for incorporating tree reproduction to understand Earth system change

Active Dates 9/1/2022-6/30/2024
Program Area Atmospheric System Research
Project Description
The boreal forest is one of the largest and most important ecosystems on the planet, with key roles in regulating climate and in carbon capture. The boreal forest is a climatically sensitive ecosystem, and predicting impacts of global change requires identifying and incorporating appropriate drivers into models. To date, the boreal forest ecosystem is not well-represented in large-scale models of the Earth system used to understand and predict carbon allocation and carbon cycling, nor in demographic models of change in forest trees. A key gap in these allocation and regeneration models is the process of tree reproduction. Tree reproduction in boreal ecosystems is an important ecological process to which carbon and nutrients are allocated and it is critical for forest regeneration. Conifer trees dominate the boreal forest, and during years of high tree reproduction, there is an abundant production of reproductive tissues (i.e., cones and seeds). Projecting ecological impacts of climate change on boreal forests requires information on allocation of trees to reproduction (i.e., to seeds and other reproductive tissues) because: i) reproduction is a critical process in tree regeneration, which is key to the fate of future forests, and ii) carbon and nutrients are allocated to reproduction in addition to other processes (e.g., above- and belowground tree growth). Furthermore, the environmental factors that determine allocation to reproduction in trees (temperature, precipitation, nutrient availability and carbon dioxide concentration) are shifting due to global change.

The objectives of the project are for the investigator to i) participate in the Department of Energy's Office of Science program in Biological and Environmental Research (BER) training and outreach activities, ii) conduct directed fact-finding on Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Division research projects and new partnerships with individuals and groups at National Laboratories, ii) conduct meetings with potential collaborators at National Laboratories to discuss EESSD-relevant research ideas, and iv) to develop a plan for future research efforts. Successful completion of the project objectives will result in collaborations being developed and a plan of action for designing research projects that will create a fusion between empirical observational and experimental data that include tree reproduction with modeling approaches to advance understanding and predict responses of the boreal forest ecosystem to environmental change.

This project will enable an investigator with expertise on patterns and drivers of boreal tree reproduction and climate change to engage with the Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Division in the Department of Energy's Office of Science program in Biological and Environmental Research. This project will include developing plans and forming partnerships to enhance modeling efforts with individuals and research groups at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Award Recipient(s)
  • DePaul University (PI: LaMontagne, Jalene)