How Ecosystems Regulate Climate
We all know that climate affects where and how organisms live. But what is less known is that organisms help to regulate climate.
Dr. Merritt Turetsky, Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology, is studying the ecological processes that affect the earth’s climate system, such as the release and uptake of greenhouse gases and water by plants and microbes in soil. Organisms have the ability to amplify or diminish future climate change through these processes.
Turetsky is particularly interested in the interactions between ecology and climate in boreal areas. The boreal forest is important to our climate system because of its huge size and abundance of trees and wetlands. Boreal ecosystems have formed under stressful conditions, including harsh winters, but are likely to see more frequent droughts, large wildfires and other stresses as a result of climate change. It is not clear how resilient boreal ecosystems will be under changing environmental conditions because of their low species diversity.
Turetsky is using several techniques to examine how plant traits in boreal forests and wetlands regulate climate by controlling carbon, nutrient and water cycling. She is also examining how climate change is interacting with natural disturbances and human land use to affect ecosystem functions.
The ecological and societal effects of climate change have become global issues. However, the interactions between ecology and climate are not well understood and are under-represented in earth systems models. Turetsky’s research will develop knowledge, policy recommendations and tools to help address this important gap.