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  1. Recent decades of warmer climate have brought drying wetlands and falling lake levels to southern Alaska. These recent changes can be placed into a longer-term context of postglacial lake-level fluctuations that include low stands that were as much as 7 m lower than present at eight lakes on the Kenai Lowland. Closed-basin lakes on the Kenai Lowland are typically ringed with old shorelines, usually as wave-cut scarps, cut several meters above modern lake levels; the scarps formed during deglaciation at 25–19 ka in a kettle moraine topography on the western Kenai Lowland. These high-water stands were followed by millennia of low stands, when closed-basin lake levels were drawn down by 5–10 m or more. Peat cores from satellite fens near or adjoining the eight closed-basin lakes show that a regional lake level rise was underway by at least 13.4 ka. At Jigsaw Lake, a detailed study of 23 pairs of overlapping sediment cores, seismic profiling, macrofossil analysis, and 58 AMS radiocarbon dates reveal rapidly rising water levels at 9–8 ka that caused large slabs of peat to slough off and sink to the lake bottom. These slabs preserve an archive of vegetation that had accumulated on a lakeshore apron exposedmore »during the preceding drawdown period. They also preserve evidence of a brief period of lake level rise at 4.7–4.5 ka. We examined plant succession using in situ peat sequences in nine satellite fens around Jigsaw Lake that indicated increased effective moisture between 4.6 and 2.5 ka synchronous with the lake level rise. Mid- to late-Holocene lake high stands in this area are recorded by numerous ice-shoved ramparts (ISRs) along the shores. ISRs at 15 lakes show that individual ramparts typically record several shove events, separated by hundreds or thousands of years. Most ISRs date to within the last 5200 years and it is likely that older ISRs were erased by rising lake levels during the mid- to late Holocene. This study illustrates how data on vegetation changes in hydrologically coupled satellite-fen peat records can be used to constrain the water level histories in larger adjacent lakes. We suggest that this method could be more widely utilized for paleo-lake level reconstruction.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  2. Boreal forest and tundra biomes are key components of the Earth system because the mobilization of large carbon stocks and changes in energy balance could act as positive feedbacks to ongoing climate change. In Alaska, wildfire is a primary driver of ecosystem structure and function, and a key mechanism coupling high‐latitude ecosystems to global climate. Paleoecological records reveal sensitivity of fire regimes to climatic and vegetation change over centennial–millennial time scales, highlighting increased burning concurrent with warming or elevated landscape flammability. To quantify spatiotemporal patterns in fire‐regime variability, we synthesized 27 published sediment‐charcoal records from four Alaskan ecoregions, and compared patterns to paleoclimate and paleovegetation records. Biomass burning and fire frequency increased significantly in boreal forest ecoregions with the expansion of black spruce, ca. 6,000–4,000 years before present (yr BP). Biomass burning also increased during warm periods, particularly in the Yukon Flats ecoregion from ca. 1,000 to 500 yr BP. Increases in biomass burning concurrent with constant fire return intervals suggest increases in average fire severity (i.e., more biomass burning per fire) during warm periods. Results also indicate increases in biomass burning over the last century across much of Alaska that exceed Holocene maxima, providing important context for ongoing change.more »Our analysis documents the sensitivity of fire activity to broad‐scale environmental change, including climate warming and biome‐scale shifts in vegetation. The lack of widespread, prolonged fire synchrony suggests regional heterogeneity limited simultaneous fire‐regime change across our study areas during the Holocene. This finding implies broad‐scale resilience of the boreal forest to extensive fire activity, but does not preclude novel responses to 21st‐century changes. If projected increases in fire activity over the 21st century are realized, they would be unprecedented in the context of the last 8,000 yr or more.« less