Geography trip to Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR)

We visited the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research on Friday 9th December to learn further about the carbon and water cycle but also the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands, specifically the effect of elevated carbon dioxide on the woodland. We boarded the minibus on a cold December morning and headed over to Stafford to view the FACE facility.

Upon arriving we underwent a brief safety talk about the possible risks we might have encountered in the experiment. After this, we had a tour of the facility and went on to observe two ‘rings’ where the elevated carbon dioxide is transported and in effect given to the forest. These ‘rings’ consist of around 8-12 tall towers in a ring shape marking an area of forest and through specific computer programming and control, carbon dioxide is pumped through these from soil level to the canopy of the forest. It was interesting to see the process of how the 120 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is transported to these ‘rings’. Professor Jerry Pritchard explained how the experiment is controlled, what measurements are taken, who works on the site and the links between the water and carbon cycle.

After the tour, we were treated to some hot chocolate in the control room to help warm up us. After lunch, we headed over to a small forested area outside the facility to complete some fieldwork. After our most recent trip to Cranedale in Yorkshire, we were all well prepared for this! We looked how you are able to identify trees, measure the height and circumference of the trunk and then how that relates to how much carbon each different tree can store. We were also informed that we could get a kit and install our own dendrometers for the trees at Handsworth! Miss Morgan jumped at this opportunity with a BIFoR package hopefully on its way in January!

This research that is conducted by the University of Birmingham is vital as it is using future projections of carbon dioxide levels in 2050, thus allowing us to see how trees and the woodland responds to this elevated carbon dioxide. This is crucial to us as it allows us to develop a sense of idea of how the forest can respond to more carbon in the atmosphere, which is quickly becoming true due to global warming, and how trees in the woodland can help us combat this increased carbon dioxide levels as trees are involved heavily in the uptake of carbon dioxide. We found out that tree are taking in more carbon (30%) but we are still unsure what this means; more growth in the leaves, trunk or roots?

The trip was extremely interesting and the professors at the site were very welcoming and engaging, but more so it has allowed us to study the Carbon and Water Cycle in much more detail, only benefiting us for our A-levels.