PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP — The USDA Forest Service’s Kenneth Clark got his start studying tree canopies in the rainforests of Costa Rica, where he learned to rope climb to their tops.
Now, he uses those techniques to climb some of the special Pinelands towers, to check on equipment and to get an incredible view, he said.
The towers are part of a network called Ameriflux that collects data from about 100 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Equipped with high-precision instruments, they measure how much carbon, water and energy are transferred between the trees and the atmosphere.
“This one we keep people off because if you are breathing heavily it can impact the instruments,” Clark said of one at his New Lisbon headquarters.
Also on the tower is a camera that feeds into the Phenology Cam network, which tracks the timing of bud break and leaf fall across North and Central America. Digital cameras mounted on towers and platforms across the country create a photo record of seasonal change in landscapes.
PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP — In the heart of the Pinelands, 60-foot towers equipped with sensitive instruments collect near-continuous measurements of…
The network has found that trees are holding their foliage longer with climate change, Clark said. That is true for the Pinelands as well as many other locations across the nation. Spring is arriving earlier and fall is ending later, and the trend has an upside: It is increasing the amount of time that forests are storing carbon dioxide.
Clark said the scientific community thinks the Pinelands are pretty resilient when it comes to adjusting to warmer temperatures, because the species here are found much farther South. That means it’s likely the species won’t change drastically in a warming environment, he said.
Overall, he’s pretty optimistic about the Pinelands.
“The main part of the Pinelands is pretty resilient. It’s a survivor set of species, so adapted to disturbance,” said Clark. “When you see this suite of species elsewhere, they are always on ridges that burn, in crummy soil. They are tolerators of some pretty severe disturbance and sandy soil low in nutrients. They are very efficient with nutrient cycling and pretty productive, too.”