Trees in Newfoundland and Labrador may be doing a better job than anyone thought at pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Why this is the case, however, is not clear.

A research scientist at Memorial University, who has been studying how trees in Newfoundland and Labrador’s boreal forest are becoming more efficient at removing carbon from the atmosphere, is determined to find the answer.

“The specifics of this program [are] really to investigate nutrient and carbon dynamics which tell us a lot about how forests will contribute, perhaps, to taking up carbon dioxide, or in fact, releasing it,” said Susan Ziegler, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science at Memorial University,

Ziegler is using her research to examine precisely how the province’s forests are managing carbon.

Positive results

She said that her research also focuses on important carbon stores in the soil.

“A lot of our work so far has suggested, in the systems that we’re looking at that where we’ve got lots of moisture, that there’s actually increases in productivity with climate change, and the carbon stocks seem to remain fairly stable, which is a good thing,” she said.

In other words, trees in the boreal forest are becoming more efficient at taking carbon out of the atmosphere, and Ziegler said she is now looking at the implications and limits of that.

‘We get a really good understanding of what we’re expected to undergo in these kinds of systems in the future.’- Dr. Susan Ziegler

Since 2008, Ziegler has been establishing a platform of research spanning along Newfoundland’s west coast and in southern Labrador.

She said the area covers a range of climates that parallel what is expected to happen with climate change within the next 100 years.

“This allows us to really investigate how the ecosystems are responding to differences in climate by looking at the same kinds of forest systems, and in doing that, we get a really good understanding of what we’re expected to undergo in these kinds of systems in the future,” Ziegler told the Central Morning Show.

Awarded federal grant funding

Her work in the future be bolstered by a $500,000 federal grant through the Strategic Partnership Grant program offered by the Natural Sciences of Engineering Research Council of Canada.

She said she is now working with Canadian Forest Service in Corner Brook and the province’s Centre for Forest Science and Innovation to examine climate change impacts on forest resources and provide information on how to best manage natural resources.