Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh experts to monitor how trees absorb CO2

BBC reporter David Miller on the Edinburgh University aircraft
Image caption Tom Wade, a member of the Edinburgh University team, will pilot the aircraft

Scientists from Edinburgh University are to take to the skies to gain a clearer picture of how the world's forests could alleviate climate change.

They will skim the treetops in northern Finland in a specially modified aircraft, measuring how much carbon dioxide is absorbed by the forests.

The boreal forest is a band of woodland as big as the Amazonian rainforest which surrounds the Arctic Circle.

The flight path will mirror that of a Nasa satellite in orbit above.

Data from both sources will then be combined.

Dr Caroline Nichol, of Edinburgh University's School of Geosciences, is leading the research.

She said: "The data we are collecting is very important.

"We need to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Forests absorb carbon dioxide naturally through photosynthesis.

"Climate change is a global problem, so we must study global vegetation and global forests.

"The boreal forest covers a very large area and we need to be studying it as much as possible."

The team want to know more about the forest's ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide on a massive scale.

'Direct measurement'

The aircraft's wings are fitted with sensors linked to onboard computer systems which will gather valuable data as the plane flies over the forest.

It will be piloted by Tom Wade, another member of the Edinburgh University research team.

He said: "The system gives us information about the amount of light which is being reflected from the forest below.

"That gives us an idea about the chemistry which is going on in the forest.

"We also have a direct measurement of the levels of carbon dioxide which are coming and going from the forest.

"And we also have some meteorological parameters which tell us a lot about the temperature and the amount of water in the air, which is also very important."

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