01/17/05 — Scientist to speak on global climate

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Scientist to speak on global climate

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Published in News on January 17, 2005 1:57 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- "Global Climate Change: Implications for Human Ecosystems and Society" will be the topic for the 2005 Lorelle F. Martin Science Lecture to be held at Mount Olive College on February 10.

The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Rodgers Chapel and is open to the public.

The speaker, Dr. Walter C. Oechel, is director of the Global Climate Change Group at San Diego State University and the 2004 National Science Foundation Scholar/Educator of the Year.

Emerging concern about global environmental change and possible future responses of ecosystems has brought Oechel's research into sharp focus as policy makers attempt to regulate human use of natural resources. Oechel has been working on the effects of elevated CO2 and global change on natural ecosystems for nearly two decades. His work has concentrated on global change effects in arctic and Mediterranean-type ecosystems.

From his Ph.D. training in physiological ecology of creosote bush in the California desert, through site studies of mosses in the boreal forests of Canada, to comparative ecosystems studies on every continent save Antarctica, Oechel's research interests have carried him to larger and more complex projects. Currently he oversees ecosystem experiments in Alaska, Russia, Italy, Spain, and California. The centralizing theme among his broad array of research projects is his effort to understand controls on the productivity and growth dynamics of plants and ecosystems.

Oechel was the first to demonstrate a change in the carbon balance of arctic ecosystems from a carbon sink to a source, demonstrating the potential for positive feedbacks from native ecosystems on increasing atmospheric CO2 and global warming. He was also the first to manipulate atmospheric CO2 in an intact ecosystem, demonstrating complete homeostatic adjustment of arctic ecosystems to elevated CO2 within 3 years. Subsequent work on a natural CO2 spring in Iceland with a Ph.D. student has shown that this down regulation has persisted for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Oechel has developed measurement and scaling routines for calculating the annual carbon flux for large regions, including the Kuparuk watershed on the north slope of Alaska. He is currently extending these studies across the north slope of Alaska, to the Seward Peninsula of Alaska and the adjacent Chukota Peninsula of Russia.

Oechel's group has been conducting winter flux measurements with chamber and continuous eddy correlation techniques, and has demonstrated significant winter losses of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Oechel has developed the Mediterranean CO2 Research Facility in the chaparral at the SDSU Sky Oaks Biological Research Station in northern San Diego County. This facility includes large and mini- Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) rings, null balance controlled CO2, ambient lit, temperature controlled (CO2LT) greenhouses, eddy covariance towers in post-fire and mature chaparral. Oechel's Global Change Research Group has secured funding for a remote sensing, eddy covariance aircraft which is now being developed.

Oechel currently serves on two NAS/NRC standing committees, the Polar Research Board and the Ecosystems Panel. Oechel has given testimony for the US Senate, for the German Government, and has twice reviewed the Dutch National Program on Climate Change.

Oechel's ecosystem-based research on Global Climate Change is some of the most significant science being carried out in this century," said Dr. Christopher Dyer, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Mount Olive College.

"His conclusions are based on highly credible data on what is certainly one of the most critical issues threatening the very survival of all life on planet earth." he said.

The Martin Lecture was established in 1993 by Dr. E. Lee Glover of Everett, Pennsylvania, as an annual tribute to his former teacher, Lorelle Martin. Mrs. Martin served for 30 years as chairman of the Department of Science and Mathematics at Mount Olive College before retiring in 1987.

For information, contact Dr. Dyer at 658-2502 Ext. 1010.