Dr. Martha Crockatt of Earthwatch explores the impacts of climate change and sustainable forest management on forest ecosystems.
"Globally, forests are a vital component of the carbon cycle, storing large quantities above and below the ground,” Dr. Crockatt explains. “In the U.K. and across much of Europe, our forests are fragmented due to road building, agriculture, and urbanization. How does this fragmentation influence carbon cycling in forests, and how could this be affected by predicted climate change?"
A great moment in the field:
“Once I went to check on the woodblocks in an experiment that was looking at the rate of wood decomposition in relation to distance from the forest edge,” says Dr. Crockatt. “Seeing fungal fruit bodies on the woodblocks meant that the experiment was working, and that fungi were decomposing the woodblocks. The theory is that forest edges are warmer and drier than the forest core. Dead wood is a vital component of forests, providing habitat, food, and carbon storage. Fungi are the main agents of wood decomposition and are strongly influenced by temperature and moisture. So we’d expect to see an edge effect on the rate of wood decomposition as the warmer, drier forest edge alters the suitability of the habitat for some species of fungi.”
But her lifestyle may be the best thing about fieldwork: “I don’t usually have big wow moments in the forest; it’s just nice being outside so much.”