The year 2023 started with a new SITES period at Röbäcksdalen, but there are more new things happening at the station. From the first of January 2023, Röbäcksdalen SITES station is no longer managed under the department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden. After an organization change at SLU, the field station, which houses the majority of the SITES activities, is now part of the Department of Crop Production Science, while the dairy farm is part of the animal infrastructure at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science.

Weather Station at Röbäcksdalen currently run by solar panles (Photo: Johanna Wallsten) Weather Station at Röbäcksdalen currently run by solar panles (Photo: Johanna Wallsten)

The SITES activities at Röbäcksdalen are continuing as usual, and soon we will have even better possibilities to collect field data. Located in Northern Sweden, the long nights, cold weather and cloudy skies in winter at the station have presented problems for the solar panels operating the weather station and the sensors on masts. This in turn, often has resulted in data missing from November to January. However, in late November 2022, Röbäcksdalen was awarded a stipend from Kempestiftelserna to support a project to install electricity to the stations infrastructures. With this effort, starting in winter 2023-2024, hopefully the weather and spectral data sets can run without interruptions throughout the whole season.

There is a need to optimize forest management in order to contribute to climate change mitigation by enhanced ecosystem carbon storage. Rotation forestry is the most common silvicultural practice in Sweden, but there is an intense debate about its ability to contribute to long-term sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. Due to the urgent need for nature-based climate change mitigation options, there is now considerable social and scientific interest in the use of continuous cover forestry (CCF), but its effects on carbon sequestration are largely unknown and need to be quantified urgently. Ongoing and future forestry projects are taking place at the Central Forest at Skogaryd Research Catchment (SRC) to address these unknowns.

Clearcut area immediately after harvest. Photo: T. Rütting Clearcut area immediately after harvest. Photo: T. Rütting

Already this winter at SRC, a 60-year-old Norway spruce forest has seen some harvest activities, including different management techniques; clearcutting (Rotation forestry- RF), diameter-limit cutting (CCF) and unharvested with extended rotation length.

A new Formas financed project will make use of the harvested activities at SRC to study the effect of CCF on carbon fluxes and sequestration, compared to RF, by use of novel methodologies based on sap flux (trees’ water transport) and phloem stable isotopes. The goal is to determine whether, and by how much, carbon uptake capacity is sacrificed as forests grow older and if a selectively cut forest can compensate for the carbon stock lost following clearcutting by increased growth and, if so, how. The novel methodology will be compared to the time-tested eddy covariance method. Both methods estimate forest carbon uptake in photosynthesis, but the isotopic method also allows for determining how individual uncut trees respond to the selection cutting. This project will support rigorous, objective analyses of one of the most compelling social issues in Scandinavia: what is to be done with the forests?

Installed Sap-flow system for measuring the tree’ water transport . Photo: T. Rütting Installed Sap-flow system for measuring the tree’ water transport . Photo: T. Rütting

With this project forestry professionals, private forest owners, policymakers and the public will be provided with information regarding the impacts of different forest management strategies on the productivity and carbon sequestration of forests. Ultimately, this could contribute to the formulation of new ecological and economic goals, management plans and policies that guide the future use of the Swedish forests.

The SITES 2023 Calendar theme is “Data in Focus”. The openly available data produced within SITES and stored on the SITES Data Portal is the “golden thread” of the infrastructure, allowing users access to ecosystem data that covers diverse habitats and climate zones across geographical gradients in Sweden. Each month follow along as we highlight a unique SITES dataset.  

During the month of January most of Sweden is snow and ice-covered, although the duration and intensity of snow and ice has been declining over time due to ongoing climate change. The SITES calendar post for January displays this trend, as ice cover duration on Lake Erken over the past 80 years has been declining. At Erken Laboratory, visual observations of Lake Erken’s ice cover began in the 1940s and continues today, now with the assistance of a monitoring camera on Malma Island. This long-term ice-covered record is one of the most comprehensive in the world.  

Link to data:

Photo and graphic: Roberto Lo Monaco

The graph displays the total number of lake ice cover days, i.e. days between the start of continuous ice coverage (> 75% of lake surface ice-covered) and the ice break-up of the observed lake area, over time on Lake Erken between 1941 to 2021. The photo shows Malma Island, where the lake monitoring camera as well as other monitoring sensors are located, and with the Erken Laboratroy in the very background. 

On January 1 the SITES community not only welcomed in the New Year, but also a new, six-year funding period (2023-2028). By the time we gather for the SITES III Kick-off meeting Feb 8‑10 at Asa Station, the incoming SITES Director, Kevin Bishop, will have visited all SITES stations and the Thematic Programs. He is looking forward to kicking-off SITES III this year: 

“Getting to know this infrastructure during my three months of “inskolning” has been an eye-opener to the amazing infrastructure built up during the first decade of SITES existence. Now, with a period of stable funding ahead, SITES can focus on what it is we are here for, providing scientists with access to well documented field sites where they have superb opportunities for doing excellent ecosystem research. I am looking forward to the meeting with many of you in Asa and working together to refine the plans for the coming years of SITES.”

- Kevin Bishop (SITES incoming Director)

Lake outlet at Asa Research Station over winter (Photo: Niels Aagaard Jakobsen)

The current (second) phase of SITES is soon coming to an end. As we turn the page and face the next chapter for the SITES infrastructure, there are some imminent changes taking place. For a start, my appointment as SITES Director, which began 5 years ago with the launch of SITES-II, is soon ending and a new Director with lots of energy, new ideas and visions will take over. My sincere welcome and best wishes to Kevin Bishop who will guide and steer SITES in the years to come!

The SITES infrastructure is also experiencing some change, as Tarfala Research Station will be leaving the infrastructure consortium. We plan to establish some type of association to facilitate future synergies and exchange, but for now I just want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to the past and present Tarfala staff and Stockholm University for a fruitful and productive collaboration during my time as SITES Director.
The SITES infrastructure has achieved many things over the past few years, but I particularly want to highlight the launch and development of the SITES Data Portal and the tremendous advances we have made in mobilizing data from all SITES stations and Thematic Programs. We have also kept the momentum in the Thematic Programs and consolidated and secured these activities to be a persistent and valuable resource for the stations and for ecosystem science. These programs have also been a great asset for bringing our stations and community of researchers and technical staff closer together. I really am deeply grateful and proud of the creativity, commitment, dedication and supportive atmosphere that I see within the SITES family!
With this I want to send you all my very best wishes for the upcoming holidays and a happy new year!

- Stefan Bertilsson (SITES current Director)

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