Above: "Ecosystem CO2 uptake: Prolonged after-effects of an extremely warm year" Cover photo: J. Arnone [Letter p. 383; www.nature.com/podcast] (Sept 18 2008 nature cover image used with permission.)
The Frits Went Laboratory (FWL) — named for Dr. Frits Warmolt Went, plant physiologist and originator of the phytotron — contains unique laboratory, EcoPod, and EcoCELL facilities that give DRI scientists an unmatched capability for understanding the controls on ecosystem function. They also allow us to understand how processes that occur on the level of an individual organism over the course of a few seconds or minutes, scale up to processes that occur over entire ecosystems over the course of days, months, or years.
EcoCELLS: Housed within the FWL glasshouse are four EcoCELLS (Ecologically Controlled Enclosed Lysimeter Laboratories), each of which is a separate mesocosm. The mesocosm facility allows DRI scientists to recreate an ecosystem that is large enough for most ecological interactions to occur, but also has tight environmental controls allowing for rigorous experiments to be conducted that could not be accomplished in the field.
EcoPods: The FWL glasshouse also contains 11 EcoPods which are naturally lit, controlled environment growth chambers. Ecopods provide economical, close tolerance control of temperature, and trace gas concentration.
FWL facilities benefit researchers by providing highly sensitive methods, precise environmental control, high levels of quality assurance/control, and high levels of industrial safety thus achieving statistically verifiable results. Projects that have utilized the FWL include:
- Examination of the effects of future atmospheric CO2 levels on C budgets using model agro-ecosystems
- Multi-year study with grassland to determine whether short-rotation cropping systems can help sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and mitigate CO2 buildup
- How does interannual (year-to-year) climate variability modulate ecosystem processes involved in controlling CO2 to and from the atmosphere?
Other possible uses include:
- Measurement of movement of toxic leachate through the soil profile
- Measurement of emissions of greenhouse or toxic gases from contaminated soils; determine sources and control factors
- Quantitative evaluation of remediation options for restoring soils, plant communities, ecosystem function.