The scientific experiment CLIMAITE, investigating the consequences of the future climate for terrestrial ecosystems has just been granted 15 million kroner from Villum Kann-Rasmussen in addition to the ongoing activities.
CLIMAITE is a Danish research centre (Villum Kann-Rasmussen Centre of Excellence) investigating how climate changes will affect biological processes and natural ecosystems. The centre has been running for 3 years and has recently published an internationally evaluated mid-term report. Encouraged by the evaluation the Villum Kann-Rasmussen Foundation has granted funds to prolong the experiments till 2012.
“After the initial establishment phase we have collected data for about a year. The results correspond quite well to our expectations and they show among other things that photosynthesis is affected quickly when the concentration of CO2 increases. These changes will most probably initiate a cascade of changes throughout the entire ecosystem, and thanks to the prolongation we now have the opportunity to follow these longer term changes. This is important if we are to deliver inputs with respect to mitigating catastrophic consequences of the global warming,” says Head of Programme Claus Beier.
Plants tolerate more drought with more CO2
Photosynthesis is the process converting CO2 to biomass in the plants’ leaves. When there is more CO2 available, plants produce more biomass, i.e. grow faster. The CLIMAITE experiment has shown that the photosynthetic activity is down regulated by CO2 resulting in a lower transpiration rate and thereby reduced loss of water. Thus it appears that an increased CO2 level makes plants more drought resistant.
“Whether some plants will adapt to changes more successfully than others will become apparent when the experiment has run over a longer period. Future studies will especially focus on how the ecosystem’s processes adapt to the new climatic conditions. We have for example initiated a study with one plant species which grows both here and in Northern and Southern Europe. By using seeds from plants originating from all three climatic conditions we can observe which variant performs best, and if they exchange genes,” says Claus Beier.
PostDoc engaged for mathematical modelling
CLIMAITE recently engaged a PostDoc for mathematical modelling. He will apply a model developed at Lund Institute of Technology to the data produced within the CLIMAITE experiment.
“We are six research groups from Copenhagen University, Aarhus University and Risø DTU each studying different factors. Together we create a large amount of data which with the proper treatment can tell us a lot about the entire ecosystem,” says Claus Beier.
More information on CLIMAITE’s homepage