By Katrina Ballard
A joint research program at the Harvard University Arnold Arboretum has received a $631,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study forest changes around the world, according to the arboretum.
The Center for Tropical Forest Science, which has 40 locations in 21 countries, will use the grant over five years to fund various workshops in Asia and North and South America for early-career scientists and exchange students, said Dr. Stuart Davies, director of the center.
The program’s international nature aims to balance protection of the world’s most valuable forests in developing countries with economic growth of those countries, he said.
“We’re not going to tell these people how to manage their forests but put them in position to help train [them] on the background science required to manage the forests themselves,” said Davies.
Scientists already know forests are sensitive to environmental change, said Davies. For example, a project conducted in Maryland found trees were growing faster than a decade earlier because warmer temperatures extend the growing season, he said. The Northeast has warmed significantly in the last 40 years and springs have lengthened.
The missing information from research thus far, however, is the extent to which forests are responding to climate change. Davies said scientists are unsure is forests across the country are responding in the same way, how drought affects the trees and how widespread the changes are, questions that students in the program will look to answer.
The program will send American students to study in the field in East Asian countries like China and Singapore, while students from that region will visit American forests. The center, which is also part of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, will reach out to young scientists specifically, said Davies.
“They’re going to change the future,” said Davies. “The old boys are not going to do that.”
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