The PhD adventure part one: Carbon storage and fluxes in the Norwegian mountains

The first story from my PhD project is finally out in the respectable journal ECOSYSTEMS! The title of the paper is “Draining the pool? Carbon storage and fluxes in three alpine communities”.

As a part of my PhD project, I have had the chance to spend my summers in the Norwegian mountains, Dovre Mountains specifically. This is a fantastically beautiful and unique area, with a rich flora and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, one of them the snow covered 2nd tallest mountain in Norway: Snøhetta (2286.5 m). Read more about the study site here.

View towards Snøhetta, with Campanula rotundifolia in the front and the heath site in the background. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen
View towards Snøhetta, with Campanula rotundifolia in the front and the heath site in the background. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen

So, what makes the story of carbon pools and fluxes interesting to read about:

First, I think that plants are really cool, and I love to learn more about what they can do, what their role in the ecosystem is, and how they are benefitting us.

With all the talk about CO2 emissions from cities and cars, few people outside the field think about nature as sources or sinks of CO2. Though some people have heard of the rainforest as the planets lungs. This is because plants are consuming CO2 and producing oxygen, as part of photosynthesis, which plants happen to do a lot of. Also, for some people it may be well-known that bogs store huge amounts of carbon, and that it therefore is terrible when bogs are destroyed (and for instance used in acidic garden soils), because a huge amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere when the soil is dug up. However, few people think about the amount of carbon stored in other nature types, and my work has been focusing on three nature types in the mountains. I have studied CO2 emission and uptake AND carbon storage in a meadow, a heath, and a willow shrub plant community.

The meadow community with the full CO2 setup. I will soon write another blogpost on the methodology. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen.
The meadow community with the full CO2 setup. I will soon write another blogpost on the methodology. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen.
Me, Mia, during a CO2 flux measurement in the heath community. Photo: Diana Eckert.
Me, Mia, during a CO2 flux measurement in the heath community. Photo: Diana Eckert.
The gray green part in the middle of the picture is our shrub community, dominated by Salix lapponum and Salix glauca. Otherwise the characteristic lichen cover for Dovre Mountains is very clear form this picture. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen
The gray green part in the middle of the picture is our shrub community, dominated by Salix lapponum and Salix glauca. Otherwise the characteristic lichen cover for Dovre Mountains is very clear form this picture. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen
Carbon storage: This is a plot in the heath site. Soil profiles were dug several places in each plant community, and each different part (soil, roots, vegetation) both above and below the ground was analyzed for carbon content. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen
Carbon storage: This is a plot in the heath site. Soil profiles were dug several places in each plant community, and each different part (soil, roots, vegetation) both above and below the ground was analyzed for carbon content. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen

Another fact that make my paper interesting to read, is that the abundance of different vegetation types is changing. Over the past decades shrubs have become more abundant in the Norwegian mountains, and this has also been seen further north around the arctic. Even though we simply describe the stocks and fluxes in the three plant communities, the paper is still relevant for the knowledge of consequences of such vegetation changes, as it makes an important foundation for speculations of implications.

Salix glauca, one of the two willow species abundant in our sites. Also, one of the species that are important when talking about shrub expansion in alpine and artic plant communities. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen
Salix glauca, one of the two willow species abundant in our sites. Also, one of the species that are important when talking about shrub expansion in alpine and artic plant communities. Photo: Mia Vedel Sørensen

So, if you are interested in which plant community that stores most carbon and cycles most CO2, you should read this paper. We reveal the results in the abstract as well, if for some reason you will not read the full article.

Click here to read the full paper with DOI: 10.1007/s10021-017-0158-4.

Coming up next, a post on how we measured CO2 fluxes…..

Comments

  1. Hanne says

    Det er bare så spændende at følge dig. Du kommer vidt omkring vidensmæssigt! Det bliver spændende at se et par af “dine” steder, når vi kommer til Norge.
    Kh
    Hanne

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