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Nevada Desert FACE Facility (NDFF)

NDFF whole-ecosystem manipulation is a flagship experiment of the Terrestrial Carbon Process (TCP) research program of the US Dept. of Energy. It is also a core project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and a contribution to the US Global Change Research Program. The NDFF was developed in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and DOE-EPSCoR programs.

Rationale of the Nevada Desert FACE Facility

Current global models predict that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere will double pre-industrial levels by the year 2050. Increasing atmospheric CO2 may lead to global warming and other climate changes. By the processes of photosynthesis and respiration, CO2 is exchanged between the atmosphere and the land where it is sequestered as wood and other organic forms in the soil. Elevated CO2 also increases productivity particularly in desert ecosystems.

Information is needed on the exchange process in order to predict climate change. Will there be changes in the rate at which plants grow over the next hundred years? Will the storage of carbon in the desert ecosystem change? Will water balance change in this arid environment? Will species composition of desert plant communities change?

These questions will be answered by using FACE technology in the NDFF's experiment. FACE (Free-Air-Carbon dioxide-Enrichment) technology allows researchers to elevate the carbon dioxide level in large study plots while minimizing ecosystem disturbance. At the NDFF the concentration of CO2 is elevated by 50% above the present atmospheric levels in three plots in the Mojave Desert ecosystem. Six other plots remain at the current level. This experimental design provides a large area in which integrated teams of scientists can describe and quantify processes regulating carbon, nutrient, and water balances in desert ecosystems.