Experimental Forest's used to predict the future

Have you ever wondered what the world's environment will look like in 50 years? With the greenhouse effect expected to continue warming the world's oceans, in turn melting the polar ice caps and further upsetting the world's climate, many environmentalists have been looking into their crystal balls. Around the world they are conducting experiments in anticipation of these changes to see what they can do now to prevent possible devastation in the future. One such project is presently underway in the Czech Republic's Beskydy mountains where scientists are investigating how these expected changes will affect the country's forests. Radio Prague's Nicole Klement has more.

Since 1997 a team of scientists from the Brno Institute of Landscape Engineering have been conducting experiments in the Beskydy Mountains of North Moravia. The international project, called Atmosphere 2045, was established as an umbrella for several individual projects devoted to global environmental change and its impacts on European forests. For several years the Czech team has been growing a fairly large Spruce forest in a greenhouse. The enclosed forest has a fixed environment which the scientists can manipulate to simulate the world's atmosphere in the year 2045.

Professor Michal Marek from the unit of Ecological Physiology of Forest Trees at the University of Brno told Radio Prague about the project.

"The Project is called Atmosphere 2045 and was started in 1997. It is a European Union project that looks at the influence of global environmental changes, concretely increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, on forest ecosystems. The whole initiative comes from Brussels but more specifically from the programs developed in the 1990's when the problems of global environmental change were first recognised as a problem. The experiment originates from the university of Edinburgh where the project proposal dealing with the effects of increased concentration of carbon dioxide on the forests in Europe was created."

But what atmospheric changes are being made in these greenhouses to simulate the environment expected in the year 2045 and what is the team investigating?

"There are two cultivating domes. One has a normal atmosphere and the other has a doubled concentration of carbon dioxide. We want to see what effects the higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have on the production of wood, on the growth rate- to strategize survival- in the long term, within 20 years."

The Atmosphere 2045 project is an international initiative. Currently 12 European laboratories are collaborating and most of the 6 to 8 million Czech crowns needed to fund the project have been guaranteed by the European Union.

Author: Nicole Klement
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