Twenty different organizations with over 100 people from eight countries met at the Holiday Inn in Rhinelander the past few days.

It was one of the largest scientific meetings ever held in the city.

Facing the Future, a joint meeting of the Rhinelander based Aspen FACE Project, the University of Illinois based SoyFACE Project and the SFB 607 Project based at the Technical University of Munich in Germany was held in Rhinelander April 2-4.

It was a chance to compare results of three similar projects involving carbon dioxide and ozone levels.

A delegation from the Technical University of Munich was on hand for the meetings, along with scientists from Finland, Slovakia, Estonia, England, Italy, Canada and the U.S.

Rainier Matyssek is professor of tree ecophysiology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. He explained that the university is an integrated research center with 20 research teams that brought 27 people to this meeting.

"We are here to learn how plants partition what they assimilate to stay competitive with their neighbors for resources and how they defend these resources against pathogens and insects during climate change with elevated carbon dioxide and ozone levels," Matyssek.

"We are interdisciplinary. We have a large number of groups doing basic research in agronomy and forestry, and physicists, statisticians, mathematicians and chemists working on one common issue. At the molecular level, we look at the whole plant and how it works. The big question is how tolerant the system is as a whole with an excess of carbon dioxide and ozone."

Global warming and its implications is another way of putting it. The Rhinelander-based Aspen FACE experiment located in the town of Cassian consists of 12 30-meter rings in which the concentrations of carbon dioxide and tropospheric ozone can be controlled. The design provides the ability to assess the effects of these gasses alone and in combination on many ecosystem attributes, including growth, leaf development, root characteristics and soil carbon.

The Aspen FACE project has been going on since 1997 and will wind up in 2011. A harvest of the trees will be done in the near future.

"We'll be able to weigh the different components, leaves, branches, stems and roots," said Mark Kubiske of the USDA Forest Service. "Then we look at the tree itself and figure the annual growth increments. We get the dry mass and relate that to the tree's height and diameter and how the carbon dioxide and ozone have affected those components." All with an eye to the future.