Research Projects

Current Research Projects

 


1. Climate change and extreme weather impacts on managed forests (Turkey Point Flux Station Project)

Background:

Forests provide numerous environmental, ecological, social and economic benefits to society. A large portion of forests in eastern Canada and US are plantation or managed forests of different ages that absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to offset some of the fossil fuel emissions. We have initiated a long-term research program to investigate how different managed forests will respond to future climate change and extreme weather events. We are also investigating the impact of changes in forest hydrology and nutrient cycling on the carbon sequestration potential of these forests.

Research Sites:

This research is being conducted at the Turkey Point Flux Station. It is comprised of an age-sequence pine (Pinus strobus L.) forests (planted in 1939, 1974 and 2002) and a deciduous (established in 1930s) in southern Ontario, Canada. Turkey Point Flux Station is part of the North American Carbon Program (NACP) and global Fluxnet. Measurements of energy, water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes using eddy covariance (EC) technique and meteorological and soil variables are being continuously made since summer 2002, at three conifer sites and since January 2012 at deciduous sites. All four EC systems are closed-path systems comprising Li-7000/Li-7200 gas analyzers and CSAT3 sonic anemometers. All four sites have trailer/wooden huts to house computers, A/C power and internet connections for daily data downloads. 36-m, 26-m, 20-m and 14-m high walk-up scaffolding towers are used mount instruments at deciduous and three conifer sites, respectively.

See more details of our sites here:

Project Components:

A brief description of some of the research projects being conducted in our group is given below.

Extreme Weather Events Impacts on Carbon and Water Cycles: Response of both conifer and deciduous stands to extreme weather events as well as seasonal and annual climate variability is being evaluated using eddy covariance fluxes and meteorological and biometric data from 2003-2014 (10-years). We make continuous measurements of soil CO2 emissions at 75-year old conifer and >80-year old deciduous sites using automatic soil chamber systems. Soil respiration studies are also be conducted at two younger sites (using Li-6400 system) to estimate the contribution of soil CO2 fluxes to annual net ecosystem productivity. We study plant and soil nutrients (e.g. N, P, S, Ca etc) in National Forest Inventory (NFI) plots at all four sites to determine their relationship with C cycling. A thorough understanding of plant-soil nutrient cycling processes and their control on canopy assimilation and water use is essential to accurately predict the response of these forests to future climate change.

Reconstruct of Past Climate: We are reconstructing past climate and extreme weather events in our forests using tree ring analysis coupled with C isotopes (δ13C, δ18O and δD) and eddy covariance flux data. Dr. Pisaric (Brock Univ.) and Dr. Patterson (Univ. of Saskatchewan) are collaborating in tree ring and isotopic analysis, respectively.
Evaluation of Forest Management Impacts: Our 75-yr old conifer forest was commercially thinned (30% trees harvested) in March 2012. We are evaluating the impact of this management treatment on carbon, water, nutrient and energy budgets and stand recovery rate of this forest by comparing post-thinning (2012 to 2020) eddy covariance fluxes with pre-thinning (2003 to 2011) fluxes. This study will help to assess the multifunctional role of forests for carbon sequestration, as well as, timber production.

Variable Density Thinning: We are investigating the impact of different pattern of Variable Density Thinning, VDT (33% and 55% aggregate retention vs dispersed canopy) at our 75-year old forest. Twenty one VDT plots, one hectare each have being established in fall 2013. Tree diameters and heights are measure in thinned and control plots. Tree rings, through coring will also be measured. This work will enable us to study the impact of forest restoration practices and structural diversity to improve ecosystem stability and resilience.

Biometric and Ecological measurements: Biometric (e.g tree height, stem diameter, litterfall) measurements are being measured in NFI plots at all four sites. Changes in canopy phenology are observed using Pheno Cameras at all four sites (Lead by Dr. Andrew Richarson’s Network). Canopy structural parameters, including the effective LAI used to estimate fractional PAR, clumping index, needle-to-shoot area ratio is measured in all four sites (lead by Dr. Chen, Universiy of Toronto) It would help to determine the impact of forest age and forest management on forest structural properties, radiation regime and fluxes.

Upscaling CO2 Fluxes from Canopy to Region: From spring 2015, we will conduct canopy scale optical measurements at older conifer and deciduous forests using Decagon NDVI and PRI sensors in collaboration with Dr. Ensminger (Univ. of Toronto). This work will enable us to upscale carbon fluxes from leaf to site to satellite data and determine carbon flux estimates based on remote sensing for both contrasting biomes.

Application of Geophysical Techniques in Forestry: 3-D spatial distribution of belowground biomass in all four forests is being estimated using non-destructive, multi-channel Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) developed by Ingegneria dei Sistemi (IDS) Inc. The results will provide important baseline data for evaluating and verifying the accuracy of allometric belowground carbon estimates. Dr. Joe Boyce from McMaster University is leading this work.

Economic Viability of Afforestation: We are exploring the economic feasibility of conifer afforestation in Canada, including its C sequestration related benefits and the use of forest biomass as substitute for fossil fuels. Integrating long-term eddy flux measurements and CLASS-CTEM+N simulated fluxes in the spatial productivity data-layers of CFS-FBM will improve the accuracy and confidence in these estimates and future projections. Dr. Dan McKenney from NRCan-Canadian Forest Service is collaborating in this work.

Development of Ecosystem Model – CLASS-CTEM+N: We incorporated plant and soil N cycling algorithms in the Canadian Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (CTEM) to develop a C and N coupled CLASS-CTEM+N model to simulate N constraints on C cycling and to evaluate the impact of climate change and N feedbacks on vegetation ecosystems. CLASS-CTEM is used in Canadian Earth System Model (Can-ESM). We evaluated the impacts of disturbance regimes, climate variability and CO2 fertilization, on the historic carbon budget of a Pacific Northwestern Forest Landscape from 1920-2005 using CN-CLASS model and participated in Canadian C Program (CCP) model inter-comparison study. We also participated in global Fluxnet, North American Carbon Program (NACP) site-level and Multi-Scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP) and the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) synthesis studies. Development and implementation of improved CLASS-CTEM+N in the 2nd generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM) would provide an assessment tool to generate robust scenarios of future climate for policy development.

Hydrologic Modelling Study: We intend to integrating measured flux data from all four sites in a hydrologic model (MIKE-SHE) to extrapolate site level information to the watershed scale and to determine how carbon balance of managed forests may be influenced by watershed-scale hydrology. Carbon cycle is tightly coupled to the water and energy cycles, therefore this evaluation will help to improve CLASS-CTEM+N model for sub-grid scale biogeochemical and hydrologic processes.

Study Significance:

In this project long-term eddy covariance fluxes and regional hydrological data are being combined with terrestrial ecosystem and hydrological models to explore climate change and extreme weather impacts. Quantification of the responses of managed forests to climate changes will help environmental planners to develop adaptation strategies for growth and survival of these forests. Modeling work conducted in this project would help to develop next generation of Land Surface Atmosphere Interaction and Terrestrial Ecosystems models (such as CLASS-CTEM+N) for the Canadian Earth System Model to predict future climate changes.

Funding Sources:

This project is funded by NSERC Discovery and Strategic grants and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (OMECC). Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) also provided funds. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) – Canadian Forest Service, Environment Canada (EC), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Long Point Region Conservation Authority (LPRCA), Ingegneria dei Sistemi (IDS) Inc. and St. Williams Conservation Reserve Community Council also provide in-kind support.

 


2. Canadian FloodNet Project

P.I: Dr. Paulin Coulibaly, Master Water Resources and Hydrologic Modeling Lab

This NSERC Strategic Network project was funded in September 2014. It is led by Dr. Paulin Coulibaly of McMaster University. FloodNet initiative involves a total of 21 university researchers from 12 universities. Its total funding is $5.9 million over five years. The main objective of work is to create a platform for a concerted nation-wide effort to improve our knowledge on flood processes and their impacts in Canada and enhance flood forecasting and management capacity in the country.

Our group is involved in Theme 1 of the proposal, entitled Flood regimes in Canada: Learning from the past and preparing for the future. This theme focuses on manual and statistical tools for flood frequency analysis and developing new guidelines and procedures for updating Intensity Duration Frequency curves of rainfall in Canada. As a part of the FloodNet, our group will assess the spatial variability of observed and simulated extreme precipitation events in selected regions across Canada and will investigate the limitations and applicability of various indices used to describe extreme precipitation events at local scales for current and future climate. This work will help to determine whether spatial trends in extreme precipitation have been adequately simulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) participating climate models for future climate scenarios and how these simulations may be applied at local scales.

 


3. Social Costs and Benefits of Electric Mobility in Canada

P.I: Dr. Pavlos Kanaroglou, McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics

Our group is also involved in a SSHRC Partnership Grant ($1.9 million over five years) awarded in October 2013 to investigate the social costs and benefits of electric mobility in Canada, lead by Dr. Pavlos Kanaroglou, McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics. In addition to economics benefits, adoption of electric vehicles will bring significant environmental benefits in Canada, because a large share of Canada’s electricity is generated from clean sources such as hydro-electricity. It would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This research will develop a clear understanding of these costs and benefits over a range of electric mobility scenarios in Canada.

We will investigate changes in the emission and dispersion greenhouse gases and pollutants under increasing adaptation of electric vehicles.

See more details of the project here:

 


4. Climate change impacts in Greater Hamilton Area

Mitcas Accelerate Grant

This project investigates future climate change impacts in Greater Hamilton Area, Ontario, with specific focus on the water resources and hydrology of the Lower Spencer Creek watershed. This work involves trend and uncertainty analysis of future climate scenarios that has been simulated by global climate models and downscaled using a variety of statistical and dynamical modeling techniques. This work is conducted in collaboration with Matrix Solutions Inc., Hamilton Conservation Authority, Ontario Climate Consortium (OCC) and the McMaster Centre for Climate Change.

 



 

Collaborators and Supporters:

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Norfolk County, Fluxnet Canada

 

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Funding Agencies:

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Innovations Trust, Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmosphere(CFCAS)-BioCAP through Canadian Carbon Program/ Fluxnet Canada and McMaster University.

 

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