Free Air CO2 Enrichment
The Free Air CO2 Enrichment facility will advance our knowledge about how forest ecosystems respond to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This knowledge will underpin future management of Australia’s fragile landscape.
The FACE facility will generate valuable data on the long-term impact of elevated CO2 concentrations on the plants, insects and microorganisms that make up the forest ecosystem at the experimental site.
The research is needed to improve our understanding about the potential of our native trees to absorb and store CO2 and their water requirements to maintain high growth rates. These data are crucial for ensuring that tree planting for carbon sequestration do not substantially reduce water supplies available for agriculture and domestic use.
The results generated by the FACE experiment will provide data to enable accurate accounting of carbon storage in forests under climate change and rising CO2 – essential information for participation in a national emissions trading scheme. The research will also provide information for the nation to identify and respond to the threats and risks of climate change.
View our EucFACE Construction Image Gallery.
View our EucFACE Launch Image Gallery.
Community Information - FAQ
Why build the Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment
The unique aspect of FACE is the ability to conduct an experiment using futuristic high atmospheric CO2 in the outdoors in large plots. This is the best simulation of how high CO2 is expected to affect Australian bushland, which is unique for its biodiversity as well as vast extent on the Australian continent. No such experiment of this size has ever been done in the Southern Hemisphere.
Where will CO2 come from?
A specific vendor has not been identified, but other FACE experiments worldwide have used CO2 produced by industrial processes, recaptured the released CO2, and then stored it for release around plants. The CO2 will be released according to a computer-controlled system designed to specifically control the CO2 level to a constant amount above the current atmospheric CO2 concentration.
Will the experiment increase CO2 emissions?
No, the experiment will delay emissions of CO2 that would normally be released by industrial processes. In effect, this allows us to harness carbon dioxide pollution for scientific study.
Is the CO2 dangerous?
No. The CO2 is diluted before release and will only be at a concentration of 0.06%. It would take 100 times more CO2 to directly threaten human health.
Are there plans to offset carbon emissions?
Australian vegetation can be a large CO2 sink, and we seek to understand if our native vegetation can absorb more CO2 than it currently does. However, yes there are plans to increase the forested area in the Hawkesbury region and thus offset increases in atmospheric CO2.
Will the research be used in building the carbon trading scheme?
Yes, the work done in these research facilities will help us understand how much carbon dioxide our native trees absorb and how much water is required for trees to grow. This is crucial in being able to plan for carbon mitigation by vegetation whilst not significantly altering water use.
EucFace in the Media
The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) launch in April 2012 generated a lot of media interest in the research of the Institute. Of note are:
- The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - 'Native trees put to the carbon test'
- The Guardian, UK - 'Australian project simulates effects of runaway climate change'
The Cumberland Plain woodland where the EucFACE site and the Flux Tower are located is an official TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network) Supersite and therefore part of the Australian-wide TERN Supersite Network. For more information please see the official TERN website (opens in a new window).
HIE is pleased to announce Dr Matthias Boer as Project Leader and Dr Victor Resco de Dios as Deputy Leader for our supersite and our continued involvement with TERN.