Louis discussed on Fresh Air

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Are you have you have you know Louis public news local science stories of national significance with climate change shifting weather patterns around the world and fire is continuing to rage in Australian the Amazon the question of how carbon gets stored used and released in the environment is getting more attention researchers from over eighty institutions are collaborating on a project to track how the carbon flows in a rain forest under drought conditions and as it recovers but it's not happening down in the Amazon it's happening in Arizona you know the in close dome of the bios fear to habitat they're leading researchers use things like carbon thirteen labeled CO two to follow the cliff flow of carbon through the air the plants in the soil joining me now to talk about that the project is Melissa so many science reporter at K. N. A. you in flagstaff welcome to science Friday thanks for having me so so tell us about this project what is going on there and in the bios here to right so one of the cool things about an enclosed ecosystem like the **** too is that you can control the weather so scientists decided why not turn off the rain for two months and forced this rain forced to go through a drought and one of the big questions they have is what the plants are going to do with their carbon when they're stressed out so we know that FOR soak up a huge amount of carbon but we don't know exactly where that carbon goes and that's because in the real world you just can't track carbon cycles of that closely but the great thing about the bias here too is that it's a sealed ecosystem so one of the experiments the scientist it is they closed all the doors and they shut themselves inside for four hours and I got to be in there with them is a great deal of fun and they released canisters of carbon thirteen into the air so that's heavy carbon and it's something they can track with scientific instruments and then they have these instruments hooked up to every part of the rainforest to see exactly where those carbon molecules ended up and so they can follow the the carbon cycle as we call right exactly and so it's a pretty pretty cool set up inside the rain forest is this fake hollow mountain and inside that mountain is a room that was filled with very precise scientific instruments and there was this spider web of plastic tubing that connected those instruments to every part of the rain forest of something like two miles of two now and they were constantly collecting gas samples from different parts of the rain forest and figuring out where the carbon was going so just as one example I was pretty neat they wanted to look at individual leaves so they wrapped up leaves in these teflon bags and hook them up to the instrument so they could see you know maybe the leaves are getting stressed out and they're releasing more carbon into the atmosphere and they can look at that very closely so how long will this experiment run and will they keep tweaking up the CO two levels to sort of mimic what's going to be going on in the atmosphere right so the experiment that the drought itself is two months and they ended that drought in December and it's a pretty important to to track the recovery of the plans after the drought and so they're gonna keep collecting data for the next month or two and watch how the plants for cover it's it's interesting because you know people wondering what's the best use of biosphere two and now it looks like we have found something really is right or right yeah I don't think anyone could have predicted that it would certainly thirty years ago wasn't built specifically for this type of research but it turns out to be a really useful place because you know if you're studying climate change and you're looking at ecosystems in the real world they're very complicated and it's super hard to control all of the variables but if you're just looking at like a potted plant or a green house well that's pretty small and not really getting the complete picture so this reinforces the size of a gymnasium it's been living and thriving for thirty years it's the perfect place to this kind of research and you get a chance to go in there Melissa thank you very much for telling us what it's like thanks so much Mrs **** is a science reporter at K. N. A. you in flagstaff we're gonna take a break and we'll come back we're going to check in on the fire disaster down under Australia's wildfires and how they fit in the picture of climate change if you want to talk about that a number eight four four seven two four eight two five five tweet us at sci fry we'll be right back after the break I'm not replace this is science Friday from W. NYC studios support for W. NYC comes from the Kerry institute of ecosystem studies researching ways to prevent Lyme and.

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