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July 8, 2021

MSU geographer leads research in carbon uptake mapping

Award of nearly $1.2M helps fund efforts

When we boil climate change down to its root cause, we understand that as more carbon dioxide is released than can be absorbed by Earth's land and water, the extra carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere, absorbing energy. In turn, this energy warms the atmosphere and enables it to hold more water vapor, causing global climate change. And it's no secret that changes in climate and weather impact ecosystems and the people who rely on them.

"To understand and predict these impacts, a key first step for us is to understand how much carbon dioxide the earth's land and water actually take up," said Kyla Dahlin, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. "On land, most carbon dioxide is taken up by plants, but how much uptake has been especially difficult to predict because plants differ in their abilities to absorb carbon and respond to changes in the environment."

Under a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award of nearly $1.2 million from the National Science Foundation, Dahlin will lead research that takes a new approach to unravel the challenge of measuring carbon uptake, especially in large scales. Combining historical data from satellites, new data from airborne sensors and computer modeling, they plan to map forest carbon uptake in Eastern U.S. forests.

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By: Diane Huhn

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