Wynne, professor of forest remote sensing and co-director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Environmental Applications in Remote Sensing, is the overall project modeling leader with Steve McNulty of the U.S. Forest Service. That team includes Thomas, assistant professor of forest remote sensing, and Burkhart, who specializes in forest biometrics, in addition to researchers at other participating institutions.

The multi-scale modeling effort has several important goals: to serve as a knowledge repository for the new information gleaned from the extensive field research on southern pine tree improvement and silviculture in the context of climatic and soil controls; to help quantify the degree to which southern pines are able to mitigate rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations; and to provide forest landowners and managers state-of-the-art decision tools by which pine productivity and wood quality can be enhanced while concomitantly providing important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration.

Essentially, the modeling team will be examining the response of the southern pine ecosystems to future scenarios based on regional carbon and productivity models driven by the extensive field data, experimental results, and remote sensing.

Seiler, an Alumni Distinguished Professor of Forestry, is working on two aspects of the project. He will be investigating soil respiration and the separation of total soil respiration into heterotrophic (CO2 produced by microorganisms in soils) and autotrophic (CO2 produced by tree roots) components. Accurate estimates of heterotrophic respiration are critical for accurately predicting the forests carbon dioxide capture.

Seiler is also working with Martha Monroe of the University of Florida on the education component of the project. Public school teachers and students, as well as undergraduate and graduate students, are integrated throughout the project.

“We will be training teachers in the role that forests play in mitigating climate change, sending undergraduates into public schools where they will teach students, and also using undergraduates as research interns during the summer,” Seiler said about the significant kindergarten through 12th grade education component and Virginia Cooperative Extension outreach.

Holliday, assistant professor of forest genetics and biotechnology, will research the genetics component of the project in collaboration with researchers at Texas A&M, North Carolina State, and the University of Florida. They want to better understand the genes that underlie climatic adaptation.

“This knowledge can then be used to enhance forest health and productivity by correctly matching planting stock to changing climatic regimes,” Holliday added.

Strahm, assistant professor of forest soils and ecology, will be focusing on the role and responses of forest soils to the mitigation and adaptation of southern pine ecosystems to climate change.

“I'll be working closely with the ecophysiology and silviculture teams by evaluating soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics with a specific focus on how the interaction of climate change and management affect nutrient availability and use, carbon sequestration, and greenhouse gas fluxes,” he explained.

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