Current issue: 54(2)
BOREAS is a four-year, regional-scale experiment to study the forested continental interior of Canada. It aims at improving our understanding of the interaction between the earths' climate system and the boreal forests at short and intermediate time scales, in order to clarify their role in global change.
During the winter, spring and summer of 1994, five field campaigns were conducted. About 85 investigation teams including nearly 300 scientists participated, including forest ecologists and ecophysiologists, atmospheric physicists, boundary-layer meteorologists, hydrologists, biochemists, atmospheric chemists and remote sensing specialists.
The findings so far have been significant in terms of their implication for global change. The boreal ecosystem, occupying roughly 17 percent of the vegetated land surface and thus an important driver of global weather and climate, absorbs much more solar energy than is assumed by operational numerical weather prediction models. Albedo measurement show that this forest absorbs nearly 91% of the sun's incident energy. Additionally, while it is known that much of the boreal ecosystems consists of forested wetlands, lakes, bogs and fens, the measurements show that the atmosphere above was extremely dry; humidity and deep boundary layer convection (3,000 m) mimicked conditions found only over deserts. Physiological measurements of the trees show that this atmospheric desiccation was a result of the forests' strong biological control limiting surface evaporation. This tight control was linked to the low soil temperature and subsequently reduced rates of photosynthesis. BOREAS measurement also focused on net ecosystem carbon exchange. Data acquired during the late spring and summer, showed the boreal forests to be a net carbon sink. However, no measurements were taken in the early spring following thaw, and in the late fall, where the balance between photosynthesis and respiration is poorly understood. During 1996 additional data will be acquired to resolve the annual carbon budget and how it might depend on interannual climate differences.