The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) is set to reach double pre-industrial levels by about 2050. This increase would be much faster were it not for the uptake of CO2 into the upper ocean and the terrestrial biosphere. Currently 2-3 of every 10 molecules of CO2 released by human activity is taken up into existing terrestrial ecosystems. The degree to which this uptake will continue as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase, is not settled. Many of the most important processes requiring investigation are impossible to mimic in the laboratory and require studies of intact ecosystem patches. BIFoR FACE exposes patches of mature deciduous forest to +150 ppmv CO2 (i.e., the expected global norm by ca. 2050) and is the only forest FACE facility in the northern hemisphere (another such ‘second generation FACE’ facility, EucFACE, twinned with BIFoR FACE, exists in mature eucalyptus forest in Australia). BIFoR FACE began the elevated CO2 treatment in April 2017, after two years of pre-treatment baseline measurements, and will continue adding CO2 in daylight hours of the growing season until at least 2026. The facility consists of 3 replicate treatment patches, each receiving 150 ppmv CO2 above ambient, three patches with full CO2-delivery infrastructure but receiving ambient air, and three non-infrastructure patches under ambient air. BIFoR FACE is designed to address the following research questions: 1. How does elevated CO2 change carbon stocks and flows in mature woodlands? 2. How do cycles of water and macro- or micro-nutrients respond? 3. What aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem structure-and-function alter? 4. How can lessons learnt be generalised to other woodlands and forests? (via the growing global network of second-generation Forest FACE experiments). To address these questions requires a broad suite of innovative biological approaches, from molecular studies of plant tissues or soil microbes to drone-enabled remote sensing of the canopy, coupled with network biology or Earth system process modelling. As well as being a proving-ground for emerging technologies, and providing direct experimental input into the environmental governance process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, BIFoR FACE will test the resilience of UK broadleaf woodlands to a first-order environmental driver at a time when UK land-use is hotly contested for food production, ecosystem service provision, and housing.
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