University of Birmingham
Air flow through heterogeneous woodlands and its role in global CO2 uptake
Dr Xiaoming Cai & Prof. Rob Mackenzie
I will build a fluid flow model of the sci-fi forest. We will use this to: 1. Explore the 3D characteristics of wind and turbulence inside and above the forest. 2. Improve our understanding of mixing processes in the forest. This will focus on CO2¬, but may also be relevant to researchers interested in pollination or entomology, for example. 3. Determine whether, per unit area, small fragmented forests take up more carbon than large forests of similar species. 4. Consider the impact, if any, on our current estimates of global carbon uptake by forests.
What inspires you
I feel most alive when I’m walking in the woods or climbing rocks
I read chemistry at UCL as an undergraduate. When I graduated, I lived in Beijing for a year, then trained as a solicitor in London. I practised as an intellectual property solicitor for a few years before moving back to science. Immediately before my PhD I completed an MSc in meteorology and climatology at the University of Birmingham.
Why did you choose doctoral research?
The interactions and feedbacks between the atmosphere and the living world fascinate me, particularly their ability to influence the climate. Models are beginning to include some of these feedbacks – but there is a long way to go. I looked at some of these during my master’s and want to make my own contribution. I will be trying to improve our understanding of how much carbon forests are (and will be) able to capture.
Why did you choose CENTA?
One of the main draws was the opportunity to work at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research. My PhD will be based at the Institute’s free-air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) facility. This is a large outdoor laboratory in which researchers are looking at how a mature forest responds to elevated carbon dioxide mixing ratios. The BBC’s environmental analyst described the FACE facility as a ‘sci-fi forest’.
I hope to continue to explore the way the living world and the atmosphere interact. I am particularly interested in the tropical forests of West Africa, and their effect on our weather and climate. Many of the ecosystems there are huge, important, and fragile – but our understanding of them is comparatively limited. The CENTA studentship gives me the opportunity to interact with and learn from researchers working well outside my own field. This will be very helpful for the interdisciplinary research I hope to pursue.