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  1. Abstract

    Structurally complex forests optimize resources to assimilate carbon more effectively, leading to higher productivity. Information obtained from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)‐derived canopy structural complexity (CSC) metrics across spatial scales serves as a powerful indicator of ecosystem‐scale functions such as gross primary productivity (GPP). However, our understanding of mechanistic links between forest structure and function, and the impact of disturbance on the relationship, is limited. Here, we paired eddy covariance measurements of carbon and water fluxes from nine forested sites within the 10 × 10 km CHEESEHEAD19 study domain in Northern Wisconsin, USA with drone LiDAR measurements of CSC to establish which CSC metrics were strong drivers of GPP, and tested potential mediators of the relationship. Mechanistic relationships were inspected at five resolutions (0.25, 2, 10, 25, and 50 m) to determine whether relationships persisted with scale. Vertical heterogeneity metrics were the most influential in predicting productivity for forests with a significant degree of heterogeneity in management, forest type, and species composition. CSC metrics included in the structure‐function relationship as well as driver strength was dependent on metric calculation resolution. The relationship was mediated by light use efficiency (LUE) and water use efficiency (WUE), with WUE being a stronger mediator and driver of GPP. These findings allow us to improve representation in ecosystem models of how CSC impacts light and water‐sensitive processes, and ultimately GPP. Improved models enhance our capacity to accurately simulate forest responses to management, furthering our ability to assess climate mitigation strategies.

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  2. Abstract

    Vegetation greenness has increased across much of the global land surface over recent decades. This trend is projected to continue—particularly in northern latitudes—but future greening may be constrained by nutrient availability needed for plant carbon (C) assimilation in response to CO2enrichment (eCO2). eCO2impacts foliar chemistry and function, yet the relative strengths of these effects versus climate in driving patterns of vegetative greening remain uncertain. Here we combine satellite measurements of greening with a 135 year record of plant C and nitrogen (N) concentrations and stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) of North America to examine N constraints on greening. We document significant greening over the past two decades with the highest proportional increases in net greening occurring in the dries and warmest areas. In contrast to the climate dependency of greening, we find spatially uniform increases in leaf‐level intercellular CO2and intrinsic water use efficiency that track rising atmospheric CO2. Despite large spatial variation in greening, we find sustained and climate‐independent declines in foliar N over the last century. Parallel declines in foliar δ15N and increases in C:N ratios point to diminished N availability as the likely cause. The simultaneous increase in greening and decline in foliar N across our study area points to increased N use efficiency (NUE) over the last two decades. However, our results suggest that plant NUE responses are likely insufficient to sustain observed greening trends in NGP grasslands in the future.

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  3. Abstract

    Biogenic volatile organic compounds (bVOCs) play important roles in ecological interactions and Earth system processes, yet the biological and physical processes that drive soil bVOC exchanges remain poorly understood. In temperate forests, nearly all tree species associate with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) or ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. Given well‐established differences in soil biogeochemistry between AM‐dominated and ECM‐dominated stands, we hypothesized that bVOC exchanges with the atmosphere would differ between soils from the two stand types. We measured bVOC fluxes at the soil‐atmosphere interface in plots dominated by AM‐ and ECM‐associated trees in a deciduous forest in south‐central Indiana, USA during the early and late vegetative growing season. Soils in both AM‐ and ECM‐dominated plots were a net bVOC sink following leaf‐out and were a greater bVOC sink or smaller source at warmer soil temperatures (Ts). The flux of different bVOCs from ECM plots was often related to soil water content in addition toTs. Methanol dominated total bVOC fluxes, and ECM soils demonstrated greater uptake relative to AM‐dominated plots, on the order of 170 nmol m−2 hr−1during the early growing season. Our results demonstrate the importance of soil dynamics characterized by mycorrhizal associations to bVOC dynamics in forested ecosystems and emphasize the need to study bidirectional soil bVOC uptake and emission processes.

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  4. Abstract

    Terrestrial ecosystems obtain energy in the form of carbon‐containing molecules. Quantifying energy acquisition and dissipation throughout an ecosystem may be useful for describing their resistance and resilience to disturbances. Three longleaf pine savannas with different vegetation composition—a result of variation in soil moisture and land use legacy—were used as a case study to test energy‐based metrics of ecosystem metabolic function. Available energy from gross ecosystem exchange of CO2and its dissipation into metabolic energy density (EM) and energy storage were used to identify differences in drought recovery over an 8‐year period. Sites with higher plant functional diversity in the understory stored more energy and lowered their EMby ~20% when adapting to drought. In contrast, the site with greater abundance of woody understory and overstory species relied on stored energy twice as often as the more diverse sites. The absence of native understory species, due to anthropogenic legacy, prolonged ecosystem‐scale drought recovery by 1 year. This study provides the tools to understand differences in site metabolic energy dynamics and has the potential to identify site characteristics that indicate greater vulnerability to disturbances. Metabolic energy density can be applied to any global ecosystem and provides a first step to describe coupled carbon and energy allocation in ecosystems, which may be used to further refine ecological theory and its management implications.

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  5. Abstract

    Feedbacks between atmospheric processes like precipitation and land surface fluxes including evapotranspiration are difficult to observe, but critical for understanding the role of the land surface in the Earth System. To quantify global surface-atmosphere feedbacks we use results of a process network (PN) applied to 251 eddy covariance sites from the LaThuile database to train a neural network across the global terrestrial surface. There is a strong land–atmosphere coupling between latent (LE) and sensible heat flux (H) and precipitation (P) during summer months in temperate regions, and betweenHandPduring winter, whereas tropical rainforests show little coupling seasonality. Savanna, shrubland, and other semi-arid ecosystems exhibit strong responses in their coupling behavior based on water availability. Feedback couplings from surface fluxes toPpeaks at aridity (P/potential evapotranspiration ETp) values near unity, whereas coupling with respect to clouds, inferred from reduced global radiation, increases asP/ETpapproaches zero. Spatial patterns in feedback coupling strength are related to climatic zone and biome type. Information flow statistics highlight hotspots of (1) persistent land–atmosphere coupling in sub-Saharan Africa, (2) boreal summer coupling in the central and southwestern US, Brazil, and the Congo basin and (3) in the southern Andes, South Africa and Australia during austral summer. Our data-driven approach to quantifying land atmosphere coupling strength that leverages the global FLUXNET database and information flow statistics provides a basis for verification of feedback interactions in general circulation models and for predicting locations where land cover change will feedback to climate or weather.

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  6. Abstract

    Land‐use/cover change (LUCC) is an important driver of environmental change, occurring at the same time as, and often interacting with, global climate change. Reforestation and deforestation have been critical aspects of LUCC over the past two centuries and are widely studied for their potential to perturb the global carbon cycle. More recently, there has been keen interest in understanding the extent to which reforestation affects terrestrial energy cycling and thus surface temperature directly by altering surface physical properties (e.g., albedo and emissivity) and land–atmosphere energy exchange. The impacts of reforestation on land surface temperature and their mechanisms are relatively well understood in tropical and boreal climates, but the effects of reforestation on warming and/or cooling in temperate zones are less certain. This study is designed to elucidate the biophysical mechanisms that link land cover and surface temperature in temperate ecosystems. To achieve this goal, we used data from six paired eddy‐covariance towers over co‐located forests and grasslands in the temperate eastern United States, where radiation components, latent and sensible heat fluxes, and meteorological conditions were measured. The results show that, at the annual time scale, the surface of the forests is 1–2°C cooler than grasslands, indicating a substantial cooling effect of reforestation. The enhanced latent and sensible heat fluxes of forests have an average cooling effect of −2.5°C, which offsets the net warming effect (+1.5°C) of albedo warming (+2.3°C) and emissivity cooling effect (−0.8°C) associated with surface properties. Additional daytime cooling over forests is driven by local feedbacks to incoming radiation. We further show that the forest cooling effect is most pronounced when land surface temperature is higher, often exceeding −5°C. Our results contribute important observational evidence that reforestation in the temperate zone offers opportunities for local climate mitigation and adaptation.

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  7. Abstract

    Savanna ecosystems contribute ~30% of global net primary production (NPP), but they vary substantially in composition and function, specifically in the understory, which can result in complex responses to environmental fluctuations. We tested how understory phenology and its contribution to ecosystem productivity within a longleaf pine ecosystem varied at two ends of a soil moisture gradient (mesic and xeric). We used the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of the understory and ecosystem productivity estimates from eddy covariance systems to understand how variation in the understory affected overall ecosystem recovery from disturbances (drought and fire). We found that the mesic site recovered more rapidly from the disturbance of fire, compared to the xeric site, indicated by a faster increase inNDVI. During drought, understoryNDVIat the xeric site decreased less compared to the mesic site, suggesting adaptation to lower soil moisture conditions. Our results also show large variation within savanna ecosystems in the contribution of the understory to ecosystem productivity and recovery, highlighting the critical need to further subcategorize global savanna ecosystems by their structural features, to accurately predict their contribution to global estimates ofNPP.

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  8. Abstract

    Terrestrial ecosystems contribute most of the interannual variability (IAV) in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, but processes driving the IAV of net ecosystem CO2exchange (NEE) remain elusive. For a predictive understanding of the global C cycle, it is imperative to identify indicators associated with ecological processes that determine the IAV of NEE. Here, we decompose the annual NEE of global terrestrial ecosystems into their phenological and physiological components, namely maximum carbon uptake (MCU) and release (MCR), the carbon uptake period (CUP), and two parameters, α and β, that describe the ratio between actual versus hypothetical maximum C sink and source, respectively. Using long‐term observed NEE from 66 eddy covariance sites and global products derived from FLUXNET observations, we found that the IAV of NEE is determined predominately by MCU at the global scale, which explains 48% of the IAV of NEE on average while α, CUP, β, and MCR explain 14%, 25%, 2%, and 8%, respectively. These patterns differ in water‐limited ecosystems versus temperature‐ and radiation‐limited ecosystems; 31% of the IAV of NEE is determined by the IAV of CUP in water‐limited ecosystems, and 60% of the IAV of NEE is determined by the IAV of MCU in temperature‐ and radiation‐limited ecosystems. The Lund‐Potsdam‐Jena (LPJ) model and the Multi‐scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Inter‐comparison Project (MsTMIP) models underestimate the contribution of MCU to the IAV of NEE by about 18% on average, and overestimate the contribution of CUP by about 25%. This study provides a new perspective on the proximate causes of the IAV of NEE, which suggest that capturing the variability of MCU is critical for modeling the IAV of NEE across most of the global land surface.

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  9. The Southeastern United States has high landscape heterogeneity, with heavily managed forestlands, developed agriculture, and multiple metropolitan areas. The spatial pattern of land use is dynamic. Expansion of urban areas convert forested and agricultural land, scrub forests are converted to citrus groves, and some croplands transition to pine plantations. Previous studies have recognized that forest management is the predominant factor in structural and functional changes forests, but little is known about how forest management practices interact with surrounding land uses at the regional scale. The first step in studying the spatial relationships of forest management with surrounding landscapes is to be able to map management practices and describe their proximity to various land uses. There are two major difficulties in generating land use and land management maps at the regional scale by any method: the necessity of large training data sets and expensive computation. The combination of crowdsourced, citizen-science mapping and cloud-based computing may help overcome those difficulties. In this study, OpenStreetMap is incorporated into mapping land use and shows great potential for justifying and monitoring land use at a regional scale. Google Earth Engine enables large-scale spatial analysis and imagery processing by providing a variety of Earth observation datasets and computational resources. By incorporating the OpenStreetMap dataset into Earth observation images to map forest land management practices and determine the distribution of other nearby land uses, we develop a robust regional land-use mapping approach and describe the patterns of how different land uses may affect forest management and vice versa . We find that cropland is more likely to be near ecological forest management patches; few close spatial relationships exist between land uses and preservation forest management, which fulfills the preservation management strategy of sustaining the forests, and production forests have the strongest spatial relationships with croplands. This approach leads to increased understanding of land-use patterns and management practices at local to regional scales. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 13, 2024
  10. Understanding where groundwater recharge occurs is essential for managing groundwater resources, especially source-water protection. This can be especially difficult in remote mountainous landscapes where access and data availability are limited. We developed a groundwater recharge potential (GWRP) map across such a landscape based on six readily available datasets selected through the literature review: precipitation, geology, soil texture, slope, drainage density, and land cover. We used field observations, community knowledge, and the Analytical Hierarchy Process to rank and weight the spatial datasets within the GWRP model. We found that GWRP is the highest where precipitation is relatively high, geologic deposits are coarse-grained and unconsolidated, soils are variants of sands and gravels, the terrain is flat, drainage density is low, and land cover is undeveloped. We used GIS to create a map of GWRP, determining that over 83% of this region has a moderate or greater capacity for groundwater recharge. We used two methods to validate this map and assessed it as approximately 87% accurate. This study provides an important tool to support informed groundwater management decisions in this and other similar remote mountainous landscapes. 
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