A visit to Marcell Experimental Forest

Group walking out at the experimental forest.Recently, over two dozen folks from the Chippewa and Superior National Forests, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Youth Conservation Corps, and GeoCorps visited the Marcell Experimental Forest (MEF). The group made the trip to learn more about the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment.

The experiment is a collaboration between the USFS Northern Research Station and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE). The experiment consists of 10 large chambers to test the effect of elevated soil/air temperature and carbon dioxide on peatland (bog) vegetation and carbon processes.

To start their excursion, members met with Randy Kolka, Project/Team Leader and Research Soil Scientist at the Northern Research Station, who led them on a tour of the facility. Randy’s work unit specializes in watershed and aquatics research. Upon arrival, the group was treated to a presentation about SPRUCE and the importance of the work taking place.  Also included in the discussion were several other projects related to it, including 50 experiments taking place under SPRUCE.

After the presentation the group traveled with Randy to the field to experience some of the sites that he eluded to during his talk. Sites included areas where crews are measuring mercury that may be coming out of a watershed and different elements of bog water and upland water that converge. Participants ended their day by participating in the coring of a peatland (5-6 thousand-year-old peat) that was approximately 10 feet deep with peat.

“I think my biggest take away is how cool it is that we have the SPRUCE experiment going on right here on the Chippewa National Forest” said Anna Plumb, Chippewa National Forest Soil Scientist “I learned that most experiments of this type do not take wetlands and Peatlands into consideration, which is one reason why DOE funded this project, wetlands and peatlands are the world’s biggest carbons sinks.”

The Forest Service’s Marcell Experimental Forest (MEF) is hosting the SPRUCE experiment because of its rich history of research on peatlands and long-term hydrological, climatological and chemistry data bases. The 2,819-acre MEF is a long-term ecosystem research site operated by the Northern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service and is located about 24 miles north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The MEF is situated in the Marcell Hills moraine of north-central Minnesota on lands of the Chippewa National Forest, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Itasca County, and a private landowner.

The comprehensive long-term water, soil, atmosphere, and vegetation databases at the MEF afford graduate students and collaborative scientists a unique opportunity to study watershed and landscape aspects of upland and peatland systems in the northern Lake States.

To learn more about Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments, please visit https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/disturbance/climate_change/spruce/