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Forest Fertilization Increases Carbon Sequestration, Helps Landowners

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Scientists at the Texas A&M University department of ecosystem science and management are measuring how much would the rate of productivity of forests could increase by fertilization.

In 2011, the US department of Agriculture awarded a five year grant to the Pine Integrated Network Education, Mitigation and Adaptation Project (PineMap), bringing together 12 institutions and 52 researchers. The general aim of the project is to warn forest owners about possible effects of raising temperatures and climate change.

Dr. Jason Vogel, assistant professor of forest ecosystem science at Texas A&M has particular interest in what happens beneath the surface of the forest. He measures root mass, and response of microorganisms to fertilization. The purpose of this is to determine the most effective forest practices that can boost forest production and carbon sequestration.

The area where Vogel’s team works is located in East Texas where they measure the amount of carbon taken up from the atmosphere and stored in the tree tissue and in the soil.

Currently, trees are being fertilized once they are planted and then 10 and 25 years later. An average pine tree is expected to take up about 13% of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, however if it is fertilized additionally the storage capacity would be even bigger. Carbon is stored in the soil, which stimulates the trees to go faster and to trigger a slow decomposition of microbes due to the availability more of nutrients.

If the process of decomposition is slower, the release of carbon in the atmosphere is slowed down too. Vogel and his students believe that they can find the best amount of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers that should be added to the forest in order to optimize soil carbon sequestration.

They aim to develop a web-based interface that landowners can use in order to get familiar with different options they have in case of for future climate. Considering that small landowners own about 65% of the forests in Texas, this study could provide them with tools for long term management practices.

Via: PhysOrg

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