music; ambience: clipping tundra plants
â€œSo, all weâ€™re going to do is basically randomly sample the tundra. You just donâ€™t want to look at what youâ€™re sampling in advance, so I throw this little marker over my shoulder, and then, where it lands, Iâ€™m going to put my quadrat.â€
Whatâ€™s a quadrat? Stay tuned. Welcome to Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Ted Schuur is an ecosystem ecologist. Heâ€™s in the Alaskan tundra, trying to learn more about the carbon cycle of the area. Tim believes that a warming of the regional climate may be significantly increasing the release of carbon dioxide from the thawing soil.
â€œOkay, hereâ€™s my marker, and I put it down, and basically everything green in that little quadrat, thatâ€™s what I want to end up in my jar.â€
A quadrat is a measured square that is used to select a representative sample of vegetation.
â€œSo, the way I sample is I just clip under this tray and then kind of sort out the live and the dead leaves. So, the key here is that when weâ€™re filling our jar with plants, you can see thereâ€™s a lot of dead leaves and dead stems mixed in, but we donâ€™t want to put those in the jar because what we want is just live plants breathing out their carbon dioxide.â€
So what effect would the dead leaves have on the carbon in the jars?
â€œIt would affect the amount, but, more importantly, here itâ€™d affect the age because you might get a leaf that died a year or two ago, and, say, bacteria are eating that and giving that off. Itâ€™ll give a different carbon date than the live plant thatâ€™s breathing out carbon that it photosynthesized last week. Weâ€™ll just stick the whole plant, leaves and all, into here. These plants are still alive even though I cut them off, and theyâ€™re breathing out carbon. We did good. Jar is totally full of little cut up plants jar number one.â€
Please visit our website, pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.