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Creators/Authors contains: "Berner, Logan T"

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  1. Abstract

    Plant biomass is a fundamental ecosystem attribute that is sensitive to rapid climatic changes occurring in the Arctic. Nevertheless, measuring plant biomass in the Arctic is logistically challenging and resource intensive. Lack of accessible field data hinders efforts to understand the amount, composition, distribution, and changes in plant biomass in these northern ecosystems. Here, we presentThe Arctic plant aboveground biomass synthesis dataset, which includes field measurements of lichen, bryophyte, herb, shrub, and/or tree aboveground biomass (g m−2) on 2,327 sample plots from 636 field sites in seven countries. We created the synthesis dataset by assembling and harmonizing 32 individual datasets. Aboveground biomass was primarily quantified by harvesting sample plots during mid- to late-summer, though tree and often tall shrub biomass were quantified using surveys and allometric models. Each biomass measurement is associated with metadata including sample date, location, method, data source, and other information. This unique dataset can be leveraged to monitor, map, and model plant biomass across the rapidly warming Arctic.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Deciduous tree cover is expected to increase in North American boreal forests with climate warming and wildfire. This shift in composition has the potential to generate biophysical cooling via increased land surface albedo. Here we use Landsat-derived maps of continuous tree canopy cover and deciduous fractional composition to assess albedo change over recent decades. We find, on average, a small net decrease in deciduous fraction from 2000 to 2015 across boreal North America and from 1992 to 2015 across Canada, despite extensive fire disturbance that locally increased deciduous vegetation. We further find near-neutral net biophysical change in radiative forcing associated with albedo when aggregated across the domain. Thus, while there have been widespread changes in forest composition over the past several decades, the net changes in composition and associated post-fire radiative forcing have not induced systematic negative feedbacks to climate warming over the spatial and temporal scope of our study.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 23, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Climate change is driving substantial changes in North American boreal forests, including changes in productivity, mortality, recruitment, and biomass. Despite the importance for carbon budgets and informing management decisions, there is a lack of near‐term (5–30 year) forecasts of expected changes in aboveground biomass (AGB). In this study, we forecast AGB changes across the North American boreal forest using machine learning, repeat measurements from 25,000 forest inventory sites, and gridded geospatial datasets. We find that AGB change can be predicted up to 30 years into the future, and that training on sites across the entire domain allows accurate predictions even in regions with only a small amount of existing field data. While predicting AGB loss is less skillful than gains, using a multi‐model ensemble can improve the accuracy in detecting change direction to >90% for observed increases, and up to 70% for observed losses. Higher stem density, winter temperatures, and the presence of temperate tree species in forest plots were positively associated with AGB change, whereas greater initial biomass, continentality (difference between mean summer and winter temperatures), prevalence of black spruce (Picea mariana), summer precipitation, and early warning metrics from long‐term remote sensing time series were negatively associated with AGB change. Across the domain, we predict nondisturbance‐induced declines in AGB at 23% of sites by 2030. The approach developed here can be used to estimate near‐future forest biomass in boreal North America and inform relevant management decisions. Our study also highlights the power of machine learning multi‐model ensembles when trained on a large volume of forest inventory plots, which could be applied to other regions with adequate plot density and spatial coverage.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  4. The Landsat satellites provide decades of near‐global surface reflectance measurements that are increasingly used to assess interannual changes in terrestrial ecosystem function. These assessments often rely on spectral indices related to vegetation greenness and productivity (e.g. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, NDVI). Nevertheless, multiple factors impede multi‐decadal assessments of spectral indices using Landsat satellite data, including ease of data access and cleaning, as well as lingering issues with cross‐sensor calibration and challenges with irregular timing of cloud‐free acquisitions. To help address these problems, we developed the ‘LandsatTS' package for R. This software package facilitates sample‐based time series analysis of surface reflectance and spectral indices derived from Landsat sensors. The package includes functions that enable the extraction of the full Landsat 5, 7, and 8 records from Collection 2 for point sample locations or small study regions using Google Earth Engine accessed directly from R. Moreover, the package includes functions for 1) rigorous data cleaning, 2) cross‐sensor calibration, 3) phenological modeling, and 4) time series analysis. For an example application, we show how ‘LandsatTS' can be used to assess changes in annual maximum vegetation greenness from 2000 to 2022 across the Noatak National Preserve in northern Alaska, USA. Overall, this software provides a suite of functions to enable broader use of Landsat satellite data for assessing and monitoring terrestrial ecosystem function during recent decades across local to global geographic extents.

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  5. Abstract

    Changes in vegetation distribution are underway in Arctic and boreal regions due to climate warming and associated fire disturbance. These changes have wide ranging downstream impacts—affecting wildlife habitat, nutrient cycling, climate feedbacks and fire regimes. It is thus critical to understand where these changes are occurring and what types of vegetation are affected, and to quantify the magnitude of the changes. In this study, we mapped live aboveground biomass for five common plant functional types (PFTs; deciduous shrubs, evergreen shrubs, forbs, graminoids and lichens) within Alaska and northwest Canada, every five years from 1985 to 2020. We employed a multi-scale approach, scaling from field harvest data and unmanned aerial vehicle-based biomass predictions to produce wall-to-wall maps based on climatological, topographic, phenological and Landsat spectral predictors. We found deciduous shrub and graminoid biomass were predicted best among PFTs. Our time-series analyses show increases in deciduous (37%) and evergreen shrub (7%) biomass, and decreases in graminoid (14%) and lichen (13%) biomass over a study area of approximately 500 000 km2. Fire was an important driver of recent changes in the study area, with the largest changes in biomass associated with historic fire perimeters. Decreases in lichen and graminoid biomass often corresponded with increasing shrub biomass. These findings illustrate the driving trends in vegetation change within the Arctic/boreal region. Understanding these changes and the impacts they in turn will have on Arctic and boreal ecosystems will be critical to understanding the trajectory of climate change in the region.

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  6. Abstract

    Changes in vegetation productivity based on normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) have been reported from Arctic regions. Most studies use very coarse spatial resolution remote sensing data that cannot isolate landscape level factors. For example, on Yamal Peninsula in West Siberia enhanced willow growth has been linked to widespread landslide activity, but the effect of landslides on regional NDVI dynamics is unknown. Here we apply a novel satellite-based NDVI analysis to investigate the vegetation regeneration patterns of active-layer detachments following a major landslide event in 1989. We analyzed time series data of Landsat and very high-resolution (VHR) imagery from QuickBird-2 and WorldView-2 and 3 characterizing a study area of ca. 35 km2. Landsat revealed that natural regeneration of low Arctic tundra progressed rapidly during the first two decades after the landslide event. However, during the past decade, the difference between landslide shear surfaces and surrounding areas remained relatively unchanged despite the advance of vegetation succession. Time series also revealed that NDVI generally declined since 2013 within the study area. The VHR imagery allowed detection of NDVI change ‘hot-spots’ that included temporary degradation of vegetation cover, as well as new and expanding thaw slumps, which were too small to be detected from Landsat satellite data. Our study demonstrates that landslides can have pronounced and long-lasting impacts on tundra vegetation. Thermokarst landslides and associated impacts on vegetation will likely become increasingly common in NW Siberia and other Arctic regions with continued warming.

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