I’ve just started a post-doc with Prof. David Ellsworth. In the last couple of weeks I have been working at the EucFACE site (Eucalyptus Woodland Free Air CO2 Enrichment). This facility includes six cage-like rings that enclose Cumberland Plain Woodland, pumping gas onto the vegetation they enclose. Three rings are ‘controls’ which pump ambient air (with approx. 390ppm CO2) but in three ‘treatment’ rings additional CO2 is added to reach a concentration of 540ppm. This allows researchers to investigate impacts of elevated CO2 levels on a natural ecosystem. The Ellsworth group is particularly interested in plant physiological responses to increased CO2, including those relating to photosynthesis and gas exchange. There are other groups investigating impacts on soil carbon, invertebrates, weed invasion and more. Other researchers are welcome to make use of this unique facility, with more information here: http://www.uws.edu.au/hie/research/research_projects/eucface
In the last week, I have been up in the cranes that allow researchers excellent access to the canopy inside the rings. Strapped into a safety harness and standing in a man bucket with other researchers, each armed with a LiCor6400 (portable photosynthesis machine) and a large pile of equipment, we glide up over the edge of the rings and down inside. It is a rare and wonderful thing for a plant ecologist to be able to point to a branch in a 30m canopy, say “please take me there!” and off you go!