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  1. Abstract Changing wildfire regimes in the western US and other fire-prone regions pose considerable risks to human health and ecosystem function. However, our understanding of wildfire behavior is still limited by a lack of data products that systematically quantify fire spread, behavior and impacts. Here we develop a novel object-based system for tracking the progression of individual fires using 375 m Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite active fire detections. At each half-daily time step, fire pixels are clustered according to their spatial proximity, and are either appended to an existing active fire object or are assigned to a new object. This automatic system allows us to update the attributes of each fire event, delineate the fire perimeter, and identify the active fire front shortly after satellite data acquisition. Using this system, we mapped the history of California fires during 2012–2020. Our approach and data stream may be useful for calibration and evaluation of fire spread models, estimation of near-real-time wildfire emissions, and as means for prescribing initial conditions in fire forecast models.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Safeguarding tropical forest biodiversity requires solutions for monitoring ecosystem structure over time. In the Amazon, logging and fire reduce forest carbon stocks and alter habitat, but the long-term consequences for wildlife remain unclear, especially for lesser-known taxa. Here, we combined multiday acoustic surveys, airborne lidar, and satellite time series covering logged and burned forests ( n = 39) in the southern Brazilian Amazon to identify acoustic markers of forest degradation. Our findings contradict expectations from the Acoustic Niche Hypothesis that animal communities in more degraded habitats occupy fewer “acoustic niches” defined by time and frequency. Instead, we found that aboveground biomass was not a consistent proxy for acoustic biodiversity due to the divergent patterns of “acoustic space occupancy” between logged and burned forests. Ecosystem soundscapes highlighted a stark, and sustained reorganization in acoustic community assembly after multiple fires; animal communication networks were quieter, more homogenous, and less acoustically integrated in forests burned multiple times than in logged or once-burned forests. These findings demonstrate strong biodiversity cobenefits from protecting burned Amazon forests from recurrent fire. By contrast, soundscape changes after logging were subtle and more consistent with acoustic community recovery than reassembly. In both logged and burned forests, insects were themore »dominant acoustic markers of degradation, particularly during midday and nighttime hours, which are not typically sampled by traditional biodiversity field surveys. The acoustic fingerprints of degradation history were conserved across replicate recording locations, indicating that soundscapes may offer a robust, taxonomically inclusive solution for digitally tracking changes in acoustic community composition over time.« less
  3. Abstract

    Biophysical effects from deforestation have the potential to amplify carbon losses but are often neglected in carbon accounting systems. Here we use both Earth system model simulations and satellite–derived estimates of aboveground biomass to assess losses of vegetation carbon caused by the influence of tropical deforestation on regional climate across different continents. In the Amazon, warming and drying arising from deforestation result in an additional 5.1 ± 3.7% loss of aboveground biomass. Biophysical effects also amplify carbon losses in the Congo (3.8 ± 2.5%) but do not lead to significant additional carbon losses in tropical Asia due to its high levels of annual mean precipitation. These findings indicate that tropical forests may be undervalued in carbon accounting systems that neglect climate feedbacks from surface biophysical changes and that the positive carbon–climate feedback from deforestation-driven climate change is higher than the feedback originating from fossil fuel emissions.

  4. Abstract

    Mangroves buffer inland ecosystems from hurricane winds and storm surge. However, their ability to withstand harsh cyclone conditions depends on plant resilience traits and geomorphology. Using airborne lidar and satellite imagery collected before and after Hurricane Irma, we estimated that 62% of mangroves in southwest Florida suffered canopy damage, with largest impacts in tall forests (>10 m). Mangroves on well-drained sites (83%) resprouted new leaves within one year after the storm. By contrast, in poorly-drained inland sites, we detected one of the largest mangrove diebacks on record (10,760 ha), triggered by Irma. We found evidence that the combination of low elevation (median = 9.4 cm asl), storm surge water levels (>1.4 m above the ground surface), and hydrologic isolation drove coastal forest vulnerability and were independent of tree height or wind exposure. Our results indicated that storm surge and ponding caused dieback, not wind. Tidal restoration and hydrologic management in these vulnerable, low-lying coastal areas can reduce mangrove mortality and improve resilience to future cyclones.

  5. Abstract

    Topography affects abiotic conditions which can influence the structure, function and dynamics of ecological communities. An increasing number of studies have demonstrated biological consequences of fine‐scale topographic heterogeneity but we have a limited understanding of how these effects depend on the climate context.

    We merged high‐resolution (1 m2) data on topography and canopy height derived from airborne lidar with ground‐based data from 15 forest plots in Puerto Rico distributed along a precipitation gradient spanningc. 800–3,500 mm/year. Ground‐based data included species composition, estimated above‐ground biomass (AGB), and two key functional traits (wood density and leaf mass per area, LMA) that reflect resource‐use strategies and a trade‐off between hydraulic safety and hydraulic efficiency. We used hierarchical Bayesian models to evaluate how the interaction between topography × climate is related to metrics of forest structure (i.e. canopy height and AGB), as well as taxonomic and functional alpha‐ and beta‐diversity.

    Fine‐scale topography (characterized with the topographic wetness index, TWI) significantly affected forest structure and the strength (and in some cases direction) of these effects varied across the precipitation gradient. In all plots, canopy height increased with topographic wetness but the effect was much stronger in dry compared to wet forest plots. In dry forest plots, topographically wetter microsites alsomore »had higher levels of AGB but in wet forest plots, topographically drier microsites had higher AGB.

    Fine‐scale topography influenced functional composition but had only weak or non‐significant effects on taxonomic and functional alpha‐ and beta‐diversity. For instance, community‐weighted wood density followed a similar pattern to AGB across plots. We also found a marginally significant association between variation of wood density and topographic heterogeneity that depended on climate context.

    Synthesis. The effects of fine‐scale topographic heterogeneity on tropical forest structure and composition depend on the climate context. Our study demonstrates how a stronger integration of topographic heterogeneity across precipitation gradients could improve estimates of forest structure and biomass, and may provide insight to the ways that topography might mediate species responses to drought and climate change.

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  6. Abstract

    Fire emissions of gases and aerosols alter atmospheric composition and have substantial impacts on climate, ecosystem function, and human health. Warming climate and human expansion in fire‐prone landscapes exacerbate fire impacts and call for more effective management tools. Here we developed a global fire forecasting system that predicts monthly emissions using past fire data and climate variables for lead times of 1 to 6 months. Using monthly fire emissions from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) as the prediction target, we fit a statistical time series model, the Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average model with eXogenous variables (ARIMAX), in over 1,300 different fire regions. Optimized parameters were then used to forecast future emissions. The forecast system took into account information about region‐specific seasonality, long‐term trends, recent fire observations, and climate drivers representing both large‐scale climate variability and local fire weather. We cross‐validated the forecast skill of the system with different combinations of predictors and forecast lead times. The reference model, which combined endogenous and exogenous predictors with a 1 month forecast lead time, explained 52% of the variability in the global fire emissions anomaly, considerably exceeding the performance of a reference model that assumed persistent emissions during the forecast period. The systemmore »also successfully resolved detailed spatial patterns of fire emissions anomalies in regions with significant fire activity. This study bridges the gap between the efforts of near‐real‐time fire forecasts and seasonal fire outlooks and represents a step toward establishing an operational global fire, smoke, and carbon cycle forecasting system.

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