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Forest Disturbance Processes

Aspen FACE Experiment, 1997-2009

[photo:] Aspen FACE experiment ringResearch Issue

The Aspen FACE Experiment, the world’s largest climate change experiment, located at the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station’s Harshaw Research Farm near Rhinelander Wisconsin, was established in 1997 and concluded in 2009. It was conceptualized in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Michigan Technological University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Canadian Forest Service and other organizations as an important step to understanding large scale tree response of three northern tree species to elevated carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) and ozone (urban pollution) in anticipation of predicted climate change. For details of the establishment and design of the experiment see the FACTS-II General Technical Report.

Our Research

At Aspen FACE, the model planted forests of pure aspen and aspen mixed with paper birch and sugar maple were exposed to elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide and tropospheric ozone for the first 11 years of their development which provided a research platform for 80 researchers from around the world. A final analytical harvest in 2009 provided full characterization of carbon storage and biomass production from 1 m deep in the soil to the top of the forest canopy. 

Following the harvest, residual stands were clear-cut to simulate the silvicultural treatment typically applied in aspen forest management.  The natural regeneration that occurred during the 2010 growing season inaugurated a new research phase, Northern Forest Ecosystem Experiment (NFEE), which is built upon the foundations of the Aspen FACE Experiment. 

Expected Outcomes

Aspen FACE research results have influenced the setting of ozone pollution standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other major applications expected are in the setting of national climate change policy and forest management plans for important northern hardwood species.

Research Results

More than 130 peer-reviewed scientific publications authored by Forest Service scientists and collaborators are listed on the Michigan Technological University’s Aspen FACE website.

Moran, Emily V.; Kubiske, Mark E.  2013.  Can elevated CO2 and ozone shift the genetic composition of aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands? New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.12153

Kostiainen, K., S. Kaakinen, E. Warsta, M.E. Kubiske, N.D. Nelson, J. Sober, D.F. Karnosky, P. Saranpaa and E. Vapaavuori. 2008. Wood properties of trembling aspen and paper birch after 5 years of exposure to elevated concentrations of CO2 and O3. Tree Physiology 28: 805-813.

Parsons, William F.J.; Bockheim, James G.; Lindroth, Richard L. 2008. Independent, interactive, and species-specific responses of leaf litter decomposition to elevated CO2 and O3 in a northern hardwood forest. Ecosystems. 11: 505-519.

Kubiske, M.E., V.S. Quinn, P.E. Marquardt and D.F. Karnosky. 2007. Effects of Elevated Atmospheric CO2 and/or O3 on Intra- and Interspecific Competitive Ability of Aspen. Plant Biology 9: 342-355.

Percy, K.E.; Nosal, M.; Heilman, W.; Dann, T.; Sober, J.; Legge, A.H.; Karnosky, D.F. 2007. New exposure-based metric approach for evaluating O3 risk to North American aspen forests. Environmental Pollution. 147: 554-566.

Kubiske, M.E., V.S. Quinn, W.E. Heilman, E.P. McDonald, P.E. Marquardt, R.M. Teclaw, A.L. Friend and D.F. Karnosky. 2006. Interannual climatic version mediates elevated CO2 and O3 effects on forest growth. Global Change Biology 12:1054-1068.

Muntifering, R.B.; Chappelka, A.H.; Lin, J.C.; Karnosky, D.F.; Somers, G.L. 2006. Chemical composition and digestibility of Trifolium exposed to elevated ozone and carbon dioxide in a free-air (FACE) fumigation system. Functional Ecology. 20: 269-275.

Mondor, Edward B.; Tremblay; Michelle N.; Awmack, Caroline S.; Lindroth, Richard L. 2005. Altered genotypic and phenotypic frequencies of aphid populations under enriched CO2 and O3 atmospheres. Global Change Biology. 11: 1-7.

Mondor, Edward B.; Tremblay; Michelle N.; Awmack, Caroline S.; Lindroth, Richard L. 2004. Divergent pheromone-mediated insect behaviour under global atmospheric change. Global Change Biology. 10: 1820-1824.

Parsons, William F.J.; Lindroth, Richard L.; Bockheim, James G. 2004. Decomposition of Betula papyrifera leaf litter under the independent and interactive effects of elevated CO2 and O3. Global Change Biology. 10: 1666-1677.

Oksanen, E.; Häikiö, E.; Sober, J.; Karnosky, D.F. 2003. Ozone-induced H2O2 accumulation in field-grown aspen and birch is linked to foliar ultrastructure and peroxisomal activity. New Phytologist. 161: 791-799.

Zak, Donald R.; Holmes, William E.; Finzi, Adrien C.; Norby, Richard J.; Schlesinger, William H. 2003. Soil nitrogen cycling under elevated CO2: a synthesis of forest FACE experiments. Ecological Applications. 13: 1508-1514.

Kubiske, M.E., D.R. Zak, K.S. Pregitzer and Y. Takeuchi. 2002. Photosynthetic acclimation of overstory Populus tremuloides and understory Acer saccharum to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration: interactions with shade and soil nitrogen. Tree Physiol. 22:321-329.

Phillips, Rebecca L.; Zak, Donald R.; Holmes, William E.; White, David C. 2002. Microbial community composition and function beneath temperate trees exposed to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone. Oecologia. 131: 236-244.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Mark E. Kubiske, U.S. Forest Service- Northern Research Station Plant Physiologist

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Neil D. Nelson, U.S. Forest Service – Northern Research Station Plant Physiologist Emeritus
  • William J. Mattson, U.S. Forest Service – Northern Research Station Entomologist Emeritus

Research Partners

  • Over 50 scientists from 20 organizations and 8 countries have conducted research at the Aspen FACE Experiment.


Last Modified: 02/16/2012

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Aspen FACE, the world's largest climate change experiment, was established in 1997 and was concluded in 2009 with a complete analytical harvest. The natural regeneration following the harvest will be studied as part of the newly established Northern Forest Ecosystem Experiment, which is built upon the foundations of the Aspen FACE Experiment.