Background and Funding
The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) was established with a £15M private donation and set up to provide a step-change in our understanding of how forests will respond to future increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂), including effects on forest growth and agricultural pests and diseases. Built in 2016, BIFoR’s unique Free-Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) facility exposes patches of 180-year-old oak woodland to elevated CO₂ concentrations (approximately 550ppm). The facility began elevating CO₂ in April 2017 and will continue for every growing season until 2026. It is located within the Mill Haft woodland at Norbury Junction in Staffordshire. BIFoR-FACE provides data to challenge and constrain climate projection models and is the world’s only place to study, by direct experiment, how the vast northern temperate forests will respond to future increases in atmospheric CO₂.
BIFoR aims to provide fundamental science, social science and cultural research of direct relevance to forested landscapes anywhere in the world. It helps to make the evidence-based case for forests as part of one-planet living.
The Engineering Challenge
FACE experiments require bespoke control engineering that responds rapidly to changes in wind speed and direction so that CO₂ is introduced into the array always on the upwind side and in just sufficient quantity to maintain the target concentration. BIFoR-FACE control engineering was provided in association with Brookhaven National Laboratory.
There are three “treatment” plots, receiving elevated CO₂. These are matched with three “control” plots, which are identical in every way except that ambient air is used rather than air enriched in CO₂. A further level of control is provided by three completely undisturbed plots to which power and data are provided. Each plot has internal splitting by tree species and canopy – especially splitting into oak upper canopy and hazel coppice layer – giving a (3, 3, 2) experimental design for most studies. More detailed information can be found here. You can also download BIFoR’s PowerPoint presentation for more information about the BIFoR-FACE facility.
Four meteorological towers (met masts) are located around the woodland to measure air flow into, out of and over, the forest. There is also a 40m flux tower and with a land-atmosphere laboratory to the side.
Results To Date
Early results from the elevated CO₂ (eCO₂) treatment, which began in April 2017, are represented in the graphic below. The following key to the graphic includes principal author names in parentheses:
A) Mean light-saturated photosynthesis, summer 2017 (Tausz-Posch);
B) Fine root length, summer 2017 (Ziegler, Johnston, Dyson);
C) Asymbiotic N₂ fixation;
D) Soil nitrate (top) and phosphate (bottom) during 2016 baseline and 2017 fumigation, displayed as ratios of eCO₂/control in bottom right panels (Kourmouli, Shi, Hamilton, Hartley). The grey dashed line in the centre of the graphic denotes the start of eCO₂ treatment. ** = statistically significant.
Further detail on the latest results can be found on the BIFoR-FACE website here, or requested directly from the facility.
Further Information and Data Repository
Further information can be found on the BIFoR website: www.birmingham.ac.uk/bifor
There are currently two ‘live’ data outputs from the facility. These are:
1) Phenocam data and images:
2) Stream water monitoring data: