Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
"Fueling Forest Carbon Capture in a Changing World"
Abstract: The world’s forests have an immense capacity to capture carbon in tree biomass, potentially mitigating human CO2 emissions. The two primary mechanisms for future forest carbon capture are through growth enhancement from elevated atmospheric CO2 (i.e. CO2 fertilization) and forest regeneration following human land use. However, growth through both of these mechanisms is predicted to be limited by nitrogen availability, potentially hampering the ability of forests to buffer global change. My research examines various ways that trees and their soil symbionts acquire nitrogen to overcome this limitation and fuel forest carbon capture. Focusing on how trees alter soil foraging strategies under elevated CO2 and how symbiotic nitrogen fixation influences forest regeneration rates, this work aims to improve our ability to predict and manage the size and vulnerability of the world’s future forest carbon sink.