Forests affect climate at several scales
Fifty-meter tower used for making microclimate measurements emerges above the canopy of a mixed-deciduous forest at SERC

Forests are important for their influence on climate at different spatial scales. Those scales range from the vicinity of leaves and interior places of the forest (the microclimate), to larger regions having open and forested lands (often called mesoclimate), and ultimately, to the level of the entire planet (global climate).

Canopies are important sites for the uptake of carbon dioxide (through photosynthesis) from the atmosphere and the release of water vapor (through transpiration) to the atmosphere. SERC is part of a network of sites throughout the Americas (Ameriflux) making real-time measurements of the rates at which these important substances are exchanged with the atmosphere.

How does the forest interact with light? In one project we measured the intensity of ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B), the part of sunlight that can cause cell damage in plants and skin cancer in humans. In springtime in deciduous forests and in canopies that have been damaged, the penetration of UV-B light deep into the forest is of concern. In another project we studied the portion of sunlight that plants use for powering the process of photosynthesis. We have also studied the absorption of sunlight by forests of different ages in the SERC area, forests that are damaged or intact, and forests in different climates.

Click below for an Adobe Acrobat pdf file of an article (2 MB) that describes the connections between canopy structures and microclimate:

Parker, G.G. 1995. Structure and microclimate of forest canopies. In: M. Lowman and N. Nadkarni, eds. Forest canopies: a review of research on a biological frontier. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.