Lake Linden student to give soil research at science symposium
LAKE LINDEN — The high altitudes and red rocks of New Mexico might seem like a strange place to find out about Upper Peninsula forests.
But scientists will get that chance later this month, when Lake Linden High School 10th-grader Siona Beaudoin presents her research at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium competition in Albuquerque.
Beaudoin will worked with Michigan Technological University professor Andrew Burton on a project about soil respiration in Upper Peninsula forests.
“Before I did this project, I hadn’t taken biology or chemistry, which is a lot of this,” she said.
She was picked to attend after qualifying at a regional symposium in Wisconsin. Her third-place finish earned her a trip to New Mexico and a $1,000 scholarship to the college of her choosing.
Beaudoin investigated if the effects of adding nitrogen to a hardwood forest in Michigan persist once it is no longer added.
As organisms in the soil respire, or breathe, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These are predominantly roots systems and associated fungi, or microbes that break down biological matter.
Knowing whether elevated nitrogen levels can be reduced could tell a lot about how much curbing nitrogen emissions will do to slow climate change. The increased emissions of recent decades from industry and vehicles have increased nitrogen depositions, harming aquatic systems and forests.
“In recent years, it has begun to decrease as regulations were put in place, but is still increasing in areas such as Asia where it’s becoming more industrialized, and therefore creating more nitrogen emissions,” he said.
Between 1994 and 2017, the effects of added nitrogen were tested at four sugar maple forest locations in Michigan. The soils showed greater amounts of nitrogen, but lower amounts of carbon dioxide respiration. In 2017, there was a 13% decrease in nitrogen emissions in the test plots to the control plots.
Beaudoin worked at at site near Twin Lakes to measure the effect of stopping the artificial nitrogen additions. Her hypothesis was that nitrogen emissions would remain suppressed.
“For 20 years, nitrogen’s been added to these areas,” she said. “So you’d think that there’d be enough nitrogen still in that soil over a year to remain suppressed.”
However, in 2018, soil respiration rates rebounded to within 1% of the control rates.
This raises concerns over soil respiration over the next few years, which could lead to large increases in carbon being released into the atmosphere.
Burton had met with Beaudoin weekly and taught her how to use the equipment, said School Board President Patricia Burton.
“It’s not easy to use,” she said. “It breaks down a lot. But you seem to understand it.”
The event will have a poster session and a question-and-answer session with judges, Beaudoin said.