I have been working in and around the mountain birch forest treeline for a week now and it is only now I have had time to sit down to my computer!
Myself and my supervisor, Phil Wookey are based at Abisko Scientific Research Station. It is a truly incredible place to work, we are living next to the vast Lake Torneträsk which is currently still completely frozen. There are huge snow topped mountains in every direction and (occasionally!) constant sunshine. When I say constant sunshine, that is precisely what I mean, we are in the arctic summer which means that the sun just does not go down! The picture below is about as dark as the day goes. So, yes, it is brilliant place to work.
We are setting up experiments designed to investigate the effects of expansion of trees and shrubs on carbon stocks in the open heath. Experimentally, this means taking soil cores from the heath and transplanting them into the forest. This tests the hypothesis that a warmer winter environment depletes carbon stocks within the transplanted soil. In academic terms it is asking whether a forest expansion could lead to a net loss in carbon from the system. In practice this is a gruelling day of work. After a one and a half hour walk it involves ramming PVC collars (made from piping) into the ground, through rocks and roots and then trying to wrestle them out again with an intact soil core inside. This is where the afore mentioned ‘Blood and sweat’ are applicable to this blog but also the ‘great start’ as we are making good headway and we are close to moving onto the next experiments which I will be blogging on later.
Over the next couple of days there will be a change in personnel as Phil Wookey (commander-in-chief) leaves and Jens Subke (second in command) arrives to carry on the supervision of this rigorous boot-camp (AKA formal PhD training in ecosystem ecology!)
Joking aside this is a brilliant opportunity to work in a stunning part of the world. I don’t mean to labour this point but this is one of my field sites….