Understanding the full implications of rising atmospheric CO2 on plant communities-and by extension on global ecosystems-is a complex task and the primary focus of the CO2 Lab at SERC.

One of the most important impacts of human activity on the world has been the relatively rapid rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)--caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels for energy and deforestation. We know that CO2 absorbs infra-red radiation to act as a greenhouse gas, and we know from geological studies of the past that higher atmospheric CO2 correlates with higher global temperatures.

But what we don't fully understand yet, is how the world will respond? both to increased temperatures and to increased CO2.

Increased atmospheric CO2 has complex effects on plants that will determine how ecosystems may change as CO2 rises. SERC researcher Bert Drake and his colleagues have been conducting what is now the longest running field experiment in the world on the effects of CO2 on plant communities. Explore the lab to find out what they're learning. Their results may surprise you.

Dr. Bert Drake
Scientist Emeritus

Smithsonian Environmental
Research Center

PO Box 28
Edgewater, Maryland 21037
Curriculum Vitae

Tracking CO2 Across Two Decades:
A Video Interview with Dr. Drake.


Researching CO2
a Collaborative Effort

  As CO2 Rises, Plants Keep Pace
In his 17-year continuous field study, Dr. Bert Drake has been exposing various species of wetland grasses to elevated CO2 in enclosed chambers.
     "The response of the wetland to elevated CO2 has been increasing over this long period, rather than decreasing as many would have predicted," Drake says.
     "Our main findings support the conclusion that rising atmospheric CO2 will increase the carbon content of many terrestrial ecosystems but that the amount of anthropogenic carbon they sequester will not be enough to offset the ever increasing CO2 from burning fossil fuels and deforestation." Plant physiologist Dr. Bert Drake presented an overview of the results of the worldâ??s longest-running study on elevated CO2 at the December American Geophysical Union meetings in San Francisco.


View a summary of Dr. Drake's presentation.