These small greenhouses are part of a national LTER Schoolyard Project. Students from the Barrow schools, working with teachers and visiting scientists, are studying the influence of warming and fertilizing on tundra plants and soil. Temperature and other measurements are observed inside and adjacent to the greenhouses. Changes in plant growth and flowering as a result of warming and nutrient additions will be followed over the next several years. The students will use results from the summer's experiment for their science projects during the school year.
The small Open Top Chamber (OTC) is used throughout the Arctic to observe the effects of warming on individual plants as part of the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX). The tundra soil is underlain by permafrost within 30-50 cm of the surface. Measurements of soil thaw are part of another international program: the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) network. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and NSF (National Science Foundation) projects are also measuring the quantity of trace gases (carbon dioxide and methane) that are released and absorbed by the tundra vegetation and soils of the Barrow region to determine if the region is a net source or sink for carbon. The carbon exchange of the tundra is important to understanding global climate change.
In the future the small pond to the north of this site will be used as a Schoolyard project to demonstrate the role of ponds and lakes in the food chain and productivity of tundra flora and fauna.
The Schoolyard project is part of the NSF Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program based at the Toolik Lake field station, 250 miles southeast of Barrow. Summer temperatures at Toolik are twice as warm as Barrow. There the shrubby tundra quickly responds to warming and fertilization.