Project Title: Scientific implications of afforestation activities on global environment and society.
Project Participant(s): Sriharsha Masabathula
Description & overview of project:
Afforestation, in recent times, has always been thought of as a positive change in the environment around us as it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, thereby mitigating climate change significantly. However, the biophysical effects – land surface albedo, evapotranspiration and cloud cover – of afforestation activities are often not taken into account.
Afforestation projects around the world have, rather surprisingly, shown both positive and negative results. Often, we fail to consider many confounding factors that affect the environment when we talk about carbon sequestration. For example, planting trees on a piece of land can change the Albedo or the surface reflectivity of the land. Darker areas have lower albedo which means that more absorption takes place. This could lead to increased absorptivity on the surface of the earth. In other words, afforestation can potentially cause an increase in the global mean temperature of the earth. A major implication of this is that the positive results of carbon sequestration projects are often neutralized by other phenomenon such as the changes in land-surface albedo.
I will also study the impact of afforestation on the “emissivity” of the earth’s atmosphere. The emissivity of the earth varies according to the cloud cover and the concentration of GHG’s i.e. those gases that emit or absorb energy in the thermal infrared or in between wavelengths of 8-14 micrometers. The change in the concentration of gases in the earth’s atmosphere – as a result of afforestation – can affect its emissivity i.e. it would affect the energy emitted by the Earth. In other words, it can affect the global mean temperature of the earth.
This calls for an in-depth examination of the nature of plants being considered for afforestation and the land being used to avoid unwanted and unforeseen results. This can be accomplished using Dendrometry, which is a branch of tree allometry that studies the dimensions of trees using parameters such as the diameter at breast height, the height of the tree and the horizontal dimension of the canopy. It is interesting to note that these parameters play a significant role in defining a forest. Different countries around the world have different definitions of forests based on similar data and it could be interesting to see an addition or reduction in a “forest” in a particular country can affect the world climate in addition to its own climate.
Using results and conclusions from the above research, I will explore the political and economic reactions that could surface. I will also take into account the human impact that afforestation on the whole can have on the environment using parameters such as industrial and population growth of a county.
In essence, I aim to accomplish three main objectives through this project using the above parameters:
- Evaluate the merits and demerits of Afforestation activities around the world using scientific and mathematical models.
- Examine if forest definitions around the world are conclusive, given the complexity of the nature around us? If not, why and are there better options?
- Examine the implications of the above study on political and economic motives. In addition, to study the human impact (both material and emotional) of these activities – both present and future.
Outline of project:
I will use a three part climate model to study the effects of afforestation and deforestation on global mean temperatures. Three latitudes will be taken in approximation. They are as follows:
- Equatorial: 0-30 degrees
- Mid-Latitudes: 30-60 degrees
- Polar Regions: 60-90 degrees
Computer models are useful in accessing changes of different variables on the environment over long periods of time. For the first phase of my project, I will use my knowledge of Vensim, a modeling software to build a model that studies changes in temperatures of the earth as a result of the changes in land-surface albedo. I will examine how the temperature change compares to the equilibrium or stable temperature of the earth and whether it could inflict any changes in climate of the earth. For example, will the change in the temperature be significant enough to cause an ice-age?
In the second part of the project, I will incorporate emissivity into the model. It would be easier to study the impact of changes in emissivity on the temperature of the earth using the Stefan-Boltzmann law. It states that the total energy radiated per unit surface area of a black body per unit time is directly proportional to the fourth power of the black body’s thermodynamic temperature T, also known as the absolute temperature.
In the third phase of the project, I will assess the impact of these results on political and economic motives in different parts of the world. I will refer to different ideologies and consult various people to gain an insight into their views on the issue.
1. Climate Data Information. http://www.climatedata.info/Forcing/Forcing/albedo.html [September 24, 2011].
The page has comprehensive information for surface albedos of different surfaces on the planet. It also has a graph showing albedos for different regions on the planet, which is crucial for my project.
The article explains changes in global mean temperatures by taking the Amazon rainforest as an example. It talks about the role of the Amazon in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
3. Dr. John Krygier, Department of Geography, Ohio Wesleyan University
I will seek the guidance and advice of Dr. John Krygier for this project. He will direct me on what course of action my project should undertake and his inputs will be very helpful, especially in the third phase of the project.
4. Dr. Craig Jackson, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Ohio Wesleyan University
I will take the guidance and advice of Dr. Craig Jackson for modeling and drawing conclusions in the first and second phases of the project.
5. Digital Earth Emissivity Information System. NASA. <http://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/smcd/spb/LANDEM/website/index.php> [September 24, 2011].
The page provides data for emissivity for different parts of the world using data from NASA applications.
6. Total Emissivity of the Earth and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: A Note from Nasif S. Nahle. Nasif S. Nahle. <http://jennifermarohasy.com/2011/03/total-emissivity-of-the-earth-and-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide/> [September 25, 2011].
This article talks about the importance of accounting for emissivity when talking about climate change and how it can affect the earth’s climate.
7. Emissivity. <http://www.woodrow.org/teachers/esi/2001/princeton/project/wetherald/p6desemiss.htm> [September 25, 2011].
This article briefly explains the role of emissivity in the earth’s atmosphere.
8. Climate Realists. <http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=7466> [September 26, 2011].
This website has some information on the role of emissivity on the Earth’s atmosphere in addition to many articles on climate change that might be useful in my research.
9. Climate Data information. < http://www.climatedata.info/Temperature/reconstructions.html > [September 24,2011].
This page has information on global temperatures and some graphs that will be useful when incorporating emissivity into our model.
10. World Meteorological Organization. <http://www.wmo.int/pages/index_en.html> [September 22, 2011].
This website has lots of information on different climate parameters. It will be useful in incorporating some more parameters to assess the impact of afforestation.