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College Alumna Leads World’s First Forest-Warming Experiment

Published January 1, 2017 in News

By: Fariss Samarrai | University Communications

Tana Wood, who earned a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 2006 and is now working as a research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service in Puerto Rico, has helped launch the world’s first forest-warming experiment to explore the effects of global warming on tropical forests – ecosystems that play a key role in regulating the Earth’s carbon cycle.

Tropical forests absorb about 30 percent of the world’s human-produced carbon dioxide, thereby helping to cool the planet. This climate regulation is crucial to slowing current warming trends. But the planet is warming, apparently at an increasing rate, which can be both detrimental to the health of forests and reduce their ability to slow the warming.

Wood’s three-year project, which artificially heats six 130-square-foot tracts of Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Experimental Forest, is designed to evaluate the vulnerability of tropical forests to increased temperatures. What she learns about how the understory vegetation and soils respond to warming conditions will help scientists create better models for predicting future climate conditions.

UVA Today asked Wood about the project.

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