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First Eddy Covariance Station in the Arabian Peninsula Established to Understand the Role of Arid Lands in the Global Carbon Cycle

Monday, December 4, 2017/ Editor -  

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Khalifa University of Science and Technology Researchers Establish First Eddy 
Flux Tower in the Region to Provide Scientists with Key Insights into the Potential for Carbon Storage of Salt-Tolerant  Plants

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 04 December, 2017–  The Khalifa University of Science and Technology has announced that its state-of-the-art Masdar Institute Environmental Monitoring Platform recently deployed at the Abu Dhabi Mangrove National Park has become the first eddy covariance station in the Arabian Peninsula to join the FLUXNET network. Eddy covariance provides an accurate way to measure fluctuations of energy over a variety of ecosystems, including agricultural landscapes and water surfaces.
 

FLUXNET was established in 1997 with the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It is a global network of over 900 active and historic micrometeorological stations that measure the net exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor, and energy between the biosphere -- the layer of the Earth where life exists -- and the atmosphere -- the thin layer of gases surrounding Earth -- with the aim of improving understanding of the global carbon cycle, climate change and future climate scenarios.
 
Dr. Annalisa Molini, a faculty member from the Civil Infrastructure and Environmental Engineering Department, is leading the team of researchers overseeing the eddy covariance monitoring campaign at the Mangrove National Park. To date, seven months of data has been collected through the Masdar Institute Environmental Monitoring Platform (MIEMP), which is aimed at strengthening the environmental monitoring capability of the region. 

“The main objective of the project is to improve our understanding of how hyper-arid regions contribute to the global carbon cycle, and to shed some light on how drought- and salt-resilient plants like mangroves can either store or exchange carbon with the atmosphere,” Dr. Molini explained.
 
“The feedback of natural ecosystems on atmospheric CO2 concentrations is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in future climate projections and at present, the eddy covariance method represents the most conclusive method for a direct ‘measure’ of how much CO2 and water ecosystems are able to ‘store’ and exchange with the atmosphere,” Dr. Molini added.

To measure how ecosystems exchange carbon and water with the atmosphere, FLUXNET stations rely on state-of-the-art micrometeorological tools and a standard method, called the eddy covariance method. Special instruments called sonic anemometers, which measure the horizontal and vertical components of wind, and infrared gas analyzers, which measure CO2 and water vapor concentrations in the air, work in-sync, taking 10 measurements per second.
 
“Eddy covariance measurements have been made routinely at FLUXNET sites around the world for nearly 20 years. Eddy-flux stations have been deployed in the most diverse environments, including the Arctic Tundra of Alaska, the Southern Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the South African Savannah. However, until now, in hyper-arid regions there were no FLUXNET sites to enable scientists to understand the contribution of local ecosystems to the global carbon cycle, and its impacts on our future climate,” Dr. Molini explained.
 
“We know that mangrove forests are extremely ‘good’ at storing carbon,” said PhD student Saverio Perri, who designed and coordinated the eddy covariance tower deployment at the Abu Dhabi Mangrove National Park. 

“However, there is still very little known about the physical and physiological processes behind mangrove productivity – especially in hyper-arid environments. The data we are now collecting at the Abu Dhabi Mangroves eddy covariance tower will not only help climate scientists better understand the role of hyper-arid regions in the global carbon cycle, but they will also help scientists shed light on how salt-tolerant species function under severe salt-stress and high temperatures – a key topic in biosaline agriculture and in soil salinization mitigation,” he explained.
 
The Abu Dhabi Mangrove National Park eddy covariance station has been deployed with the support of Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).


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