Led by senior scientist Anne Giblin and postdoctoral scientist Inke Forbrich, Ecosystems Center scientists have built a 40-foot instrumentation tower at the Plum Island Long Term Ecological Research site in northern Massachusetts to allow them to make year-round measurements of net ecosystem carbon exchange.
The particular site was chosen to ensure that measurements can take place even during winter. Due to potentially harsh climate conditions and ice drift, measurements so far have been restricted mostly to the growing season.
Salt marsh ecosystems are among the most productive ecosystems worldwide and these data will help to understand and quantify the ecosystem carbon uptake and release. While marsh grasses take up considerable amounts of carbon during the growing period, the marsh is expected to release CO2 during winter.
The long term goal of these measurements is a better understanding of carbon cycling in the Plum Island Estuary and how the system can adjust to the projected sea level rise. Sea level is predicted to increase, and the scientists are interested in how these changes affect the salt marsh ecosystem. "The major question here is whether the marsh can keep up with a rising sea level by both sedimentation and peat accumulation. Since previous studies have shown that the sedimentation rate at Plum Island is relatively low, we will have a closer look at the carbon cycling in the salt marsh," Inke Forbrich said.