CSU researchers get $200K to study environmental impact of wildfire black carbon

By: Steve Friday February 8, 2013 0 comments Tags: black carbon, CSU, Fort Collins, Francesca Cotrufo, Gene Kelly, High Park fire

Colorado State University Fort Collins Colorado logoFORT COLLINS - A team of Colorado State University researchers has received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a yearlong study of what happens to black carbon, the singed plant matter and sooty soil left after wildfires.

The researchers hope to better understand the effects of black carbon on forests and watersheds and its implications for the planet's carbon cycle, CSU said.

"Black carbon is a hot topic because we don't know much about its fate into the environment, and we have a poor understanding of its role in global carbon cycling," said Francesca Cotrufo, CSU Department of Soil and Crop Sciences professor leading the investigation.

A study of black carbon in the atmosphere published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres found atmospheric black carbon is the most damaging greenhouse agent behind carbon dioxide and has twice the power previously believed to spur global warming.

The researchers will study the effects of the High Park Fire in Larimer County in June 2012 that scorched more than 87,000 acres of public and private forest land.

"We really want to know what happens right after a fire, before effects of the disturbance have been altered, and our team had the ability to strike quickly," said Gene Kelly, head of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.

"This study is fundamental to understanding how carbon moves around the ecosystem, and the data can also be used to understand and assist in recovery."


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