Quantifying the Effects of Historical Land Cover Conversion Uncertainty on Global Carbon and Climate EstimatesPrevious studies have examined land use change as a driver of global change, but the translation of land use change into land cover conversion has been largely unconstrained. Here we quantify the effects of land cover conversion uncertainty on the global carbon and climate system using the integrated Earth System Model. Our experiments use identical land use change data and vary land cover conversions to quantify associated uncertainty in carbon and climate estimates. Land cover conversion uncertainty is large, constitutes a 5 ppmv range in estimated atmospheric CO2 in 2004, and generates carbon uncertainty that is equivalent to 80% of the net effects of CO2 and climate and 124% of the effects of nitrogen deposition during 1850–2004. Additionally, land cover uncertainty generates differences in local surface temperature of over 1°C. We conclude that future studies addressing land use, carbon, and climate need to constrain and reduce land cover conversion uncertainties.
Synergy between land use and climate change increases future fire risk in Amazon forestsTropical forests have been a permanent feature of the Amazon basin for at least 55 million years, yet climate change and land use threaten the forest's future over the next century. Understory forest fires, which are common under the current climate in frontier forests, may accelerate Amazon forest losses from climate-driven dieback and deforestation. Far from land use frontiers, scarce fire ignitions and high moisture levels preclude significant burning, yet projected climate and land use changes may increase fire activity in these remote regions. Here, we used a fire model specifically parameterized for Amazon understory fires to examine the interactions between anthropogenic activities and climate under current and projected conditions. In a scenario of low mitigation efforts with substantial land use expansion and climate change – Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 – projected understory fires increase in frequency and duration, burning 4–28 times more forest in 2080–2100 than during 1990–2010. In contrast, active climate mitigation and land use contraction in RCP4.5 constrain the projected increase in fire activity to 0.9–5.4 times contemporary burned area. Importantly, if climate mitigation is not successful, land use contraction alone is very effective under low to moderate climate change, but does little to reduce fire activity under the most severe climate projections. These results underscore the potential for a fire-driven transformation of Amazon forests if recent regional policies for forest conservation are not paired with global efforts to mitigate climate change.
Assessing the impacts of 1.5 °C global warming – simulation protocol of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP2b)In Paris, France, December 2015, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) invited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. In Nairobi, Kenya, April 2016, the IPCC panel accepted the invitation. Here we describe the response devised within the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP) to provide tailored, cross-sectorally consistent impact projections to broaden the scientific basis for the report. The simulation protocol is designed to allow for (1) separation of the impacts of historical warming starting from pre-industrial conditions from impacts of other drivers such as historical land-use changes (based on pre-industrial and historical impact model simulations); (2) quantification of the impacts of additional warming up to 1.5 °C, including a potential overshoot and long-term impacts up to 2299, and comparison to higher levels of global mean temperature change (based on the low-emissions Representative Concentration Pathway RCP2.6 and a no-mitigation pathway RCP6.0) with socio-economic conditions fixed at 2005 levels; and (3) assessment of the climate effects based on the same climate scenarios while accounting for simultaneous changes in socio-economic conditions following the middle-of-the-road Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP2, Fricko et al., 2016) and in particular differential bioenergy requirements associated with the transformation of the energy system to comply with RCP2.6 compared to RCP6.0. With the aim of providing the scientific basis for an aggregation of impacts across sectors and analysis of cross-sectoral interactions that may dampen or amplify sectoral impacts, the protocol is designed to facilitate consistent impact projections from a range of impact models across different sectors (global and regional hydrology, lakes, global crops, global vegetation, regional forests, global and regional marine ecosystems and fisheries, global and regional coastal infrastructure, energy supply and demand, temperature-related mortality, and global terrestrial biodiversity).
County-scale biomass map comparison: a case study for Sonoma, CaliforniaThe amount of carbon stored in forests affects a wide range of regional- to global-scale climate change processes. However, current maps often show large differences in carbon accounting. In this study, we present a framework to evaluate and compare multiple recent biomass maps at the county scale (4119 km2). We first compare the differences in the forest and non-forest areas at the pixel and county levels from multiple maps. Map-based estimates of county-level mean and total biomass are compared to the United States Forest Service (USFS) sample-based estimates. Comparison of raster-based biomass products shows differences in mean and total biomass at both pixel- and county-levels. Despite all the maps using USFS's plot data for model training, only the three active sensor derived products compare well to USFS's estimates of total biomass (within 10%), while the three passive sensor derived map products underestimated total biomass by as much as 47%. Our evaluation demonstrates that the biomass map generated using combined Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and auxiliary data achieve accurate estimates at plot-level (R2 = 0.67; RMSE = 97.9 Mg.ha-1). This comparison study confirmed that missing direct height information either from active sensors tends to underestimate total biomass and mean biomass density at county-level.
Global Carbon Budget 2017Accurate assessment of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and their redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and terrestrial biosphere – the "global carbon budget" – is important to better understand the global carbon cycle, support the development of climate policies, and project future climate change. Here we describe data sets and methodology to quantify the five major components of the global carbon budget and their uncertainties. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry (EFF) are based on energy statistics and cement production data, respectively, while emissions from land-use change (ELUC), mainly deforestation, are based on land-cover change data and bookkeeping models. The global atmospheric CO2 concentration is measured directly and its rate of growth (GATM) is computed from the annual changes in concentration. The ocean CO2 sink (SOCEAN) and terrestrial CO2 sink (SLAND) are estimated with global process models constrained by observations. The resulting carbon budget imbalance (BIM), the difference between the estimated total emissions and the estimated changes in the atmosphere, ocean, and terrestrial biosphere, is a measure of our imperfect data and understanding of the contemporary carbon cycle. All uncertainties are reported as ±1σ. For the last decade available (2007–2016), EFF was 9.4 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1, ELUC 1.3 ± 0.7 GtC yr−1, GATM 4.7 ± 0.1 GtC yr−1, SOCEAN 2.4 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1, and SLAND 3.0 ± 0.8 GtC yr−1, with a budget imbalance BIM of 0.6 GtC yr−1 indicating overestimated emissions and/or underestimated sinks. For year 2016 alone, the growth in EFF was approximately zero and emissions remained at 9.9 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1. Also for 2016, ELUC was 1.3 ± 0.7 GtC yr−1, GATM was 6.1 ± 0.2 GtC yr−1, SOCEAN was 2.6 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1 and SLAND was 2.7 ± 1.0 GtC yr−1, with a small BIM of −0.3 GtC. GATM continued to be higher in 2016 compared to the past decade (2007–2016), reflecting in part the higher fossil emissions and smaller SLAND for that year consistent with El Niño conditions. The global atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 402.8 ± 0.1 ppm averaged over 2016. For 2017, preliminary data indicate a renewed growth in EFF of +2.0 % (range of 0.8 % to 3.0 %) based on national emissions projections for China, USA, and India, and projections of Gross Domestic Product corrected for recent changes in the carbon intensity of the economy for the rest of the world. For 2017, initial data indicate an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration of around 5.3 GtC (2.5 ppm), attributed to a combination of increasing emissions and receding El Niño conditions. This living data update documents changes in the methods and data sets used in this new global carbon budget compared with previous publications of this data set (Le Quéré et al., 2016; 2015b; 2015a; 2014; 2013). All results presented here can be downloaded from https://doi.org/10.18160/GCP-2017.
The PMIP4 contribution to CMIP6 – Part 3: The last millennium, scientific objective, and experimental design for the PMIP4 past1000 simulationsThe pre-industrial millennium is among the periods selected by the Paleoclimate Model Intercomparison Project (PMIP) for experiments contributing to the sixth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) and the fourth phase of the PMIP (PMIP4). The past1000 transient simulations serve to investigate the response to (mainly) natural forcing under background conditions not too different from today, and to discriminate between forced and internally generated variability on interannual to centennial timescales. This paper describes the motivation and the experimental set-ups for the PMIP4-CMIP6 past1000 simulations, and discusses the forcing agents orbital, solar, volcanic, and land use/land cover changes, and variations in greenhouse gas concentrations. The past1000 simulations covering the pre-industrial millennium from 850 Common Era (CE) to 1849 CE have to be complemented by historical simulations (1850 to 2014 CE) following the CMIP6 protocol. The external forcings for the past1000 experiments have been adapted to provide a seamless transition across these time periods. Protocols for the past1000 simulations have been divided into three tiers. A default forcing data set has been defined for the Tier 1 (the CMIP6 past1000) experiment. However, the PMIP community has maintained the flexibility to conduct coordinated sensitivity experiments to explore uncertainty in forcing reconstructions as well as parameter uncertainty in dedicated Tier 2 simulations. Additional experiments (Tier 3) are defined to foster collaborative model experiments focusing on the early instrumental period and to extend the temporal range and the scope of the simulations. This paper outlines current and future research foci and common analyses for collaborative work between the PMIP and the observational communities (reconstructions, instrumental data).
Vegetation demographics in Earth System Models: A review of progress and prioritiesNumerous current efforts seek to improve the representation of ecosystem ecology and vegetation demographic processes within Earth System Models (ESMs). These developments are widely viewed as an important step in developing greater realism in predictions of future ecosystem states and fluxes. Increased realism, however, leads to increased model complexity, with new features raising a suite of ecological questions that require empirical constraints. Here, we review the developments that permit the representation of plant demographics in ESMs, and identify issues raised by these developments that highlight important gaps in ecological understanding. These issues inevitably translate into uncertainty in model projections but also allow models to be applied to new processes and questions concerning the dynamics of real-world ecosystems. We argue that stronger and more innovative connections to data, across the range of scales considered, are required to address these gaps in understanding. The development of first-generation land surface models as a unifying framework for ecophysiological understanding stimulated much research into plant physiological traits and gas exchange. Constraining predictions at ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales will require a similar investment of effort and intensified inter-disciplinary communication.
Disturbance Distance: quantifying forests' vulnerability to disturbance under current and future conditionsDisturbances, both natural and anthropogenic, are critical determinants of forest structure, function, and distribution. The vulnerability of forests to potential changes in disturbance rates remains largely unknown. Here, we developed a framework for quantifying and mapping the vulnerability of forests to changes in disturbance rates. By comparing recent estimates of observed forest disturbance rates over a sample of contiguous US forests to modeled rates of disturbance resulting in forest loss, a novel index of vulnerability, Disturbance Distance, was produced. Sample results indicate that 20% of current US forestland could be lost if disturbance rates were to double, with southwestern forests showing highest vulnerability. Under a future climate scenario, the majority of US forests showed capabilities of withstanding higher rates of disturbance then under the current climate scenario, which may buffer some impacts of intensified forest disturbance.
Snowmelt timing, phenology, and growing season length in conifer forests of Crater Lake National Park, USAAnthropogenic climate change is having significant impacts on montane and high-elevation areas globally. Warmer winter temperatures are driving reduced snowpack in the western USA with broad potential impacts on ecosystem dynamics of particular concern for protected areas. Vegetation phenology is a sensitive indicator of ecological response to climate change and is associated with snowmelt timing. Human monitoring of climate impacts can be resource prohibitive for land management agencies, whereas remotely sensed phenology observations are freely available at a range of spatiotemporal scales. Little work has been done in regions dominated by evergreen conifer cover, which represents many mountain regions at temperate latitudes. We used moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) data to assess the influence of snowmelt timing and elevation on five phenology metrics (green up, maximum greenness, senescence, dormancy, and growing season length) within Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA from 2001 to 2012. Earlier annual mean snowmelt timing was significantly correlated with earlier onset of green up at the landscape scale. Snowmelt timing and elevation have significant explanatory power for phenology, though with high variability. Elevation has a moderate control on early season indicators such as snowmelt timing and green up and less on late-season variables such as senescence and growing season length. PCA results show that early season indicators and late season indicators vary independently. These results have important implications for ecosystem dynamics, management, and conservation, particularly of species such as whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) in alpine and subalpine areas.
Biospheric feedback effects in a synchronously coupled model of human and Earth systemsFossil fuel combustion and land-use change are the two largest contributors to industrial-era increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Projections of these are thus fundamental inputs for coupled Earth system models (ESMs) used to estimate the physical and biological consequences of future climate system forcing. While historical data sets are available to inform past and current climate analyses assessments of future climate change have relied on projections of energy and land use from energy–economic models, constrained by assumptions about future policy, land-use patterns and socio-economic development trajectories. Here we show that the climatic impacts on land ecosystems drive significant feedbacks in energy, agriculture, land use and carbon cycle projections for the twenty-first century. We find that exposure of human-appropriated land ecosystem productivity to biospheric change results in reductions of land area used for crops; increases in managed forest area and carbon stocks; decreases in global crop prices; and reduction in fossil fuel emissions for a low–mid-range forcing scenario7. The feedbacks between climate-induced biospheric change and human system forcings to the climate system—demonstrated here—are handled inconsistently, or excluded altogether, in the one-way asynchronous coupling of energy–economic models to ESMs used to date.
The Scenario Model Intercomparison Project (ScenarioMIP) for CMIP6Projections of future climate change play a fundamental role in improving understanding of the climate system as well as characterizing societal risks and response options. The Scenario Model Intercomparison Project (ScenarioMIP) is the primary activity within Phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) that will provide multi-model climate projections based on alternative scenarios of future emissions and land use changes produced with integrated assessment models. In this paper, we describe ScenarioMIP's objectives, experimental design, and its relation to other activities within CMIP6. The ScenarioMIP design is one component of a larger scenario process that aims to facilitate a wide range of integrated studies across the climate science, integrated assessment modeling, and impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability communities, and will form an important part of the evidence base in the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments. At the same time, it will provide the basis for investigating a number of targeted science and policy questions that are especially relevant to scenario-based analysis, including the role of specific forcings such as land use and aerosols, the effect of a peak and decline in forcing, the consequences of scenarios that limit warming to below 2
The Land Use Model Intercomparison Project (LUMIP) contribution to CMIP6: rationale and experimental design.Human land-use activities have resulted in large changes to the Earth's surface, with resulting implications for climate. In the future, land-use activities are likely to expand and intensify further to meet growing demands for food, fiber, and energy. The Land Use Model Intercomparison Project (LUMIP) aims to further advance understanding of the impacts of land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) on climate, specifically addressing the following questions. (1) What are the effects of LULCC on climate and biogeochemical cycling (past–future)? (2) What are the impacts of land management on surface fluxes of carbon, water, and energy, and are there regional land-management strategies with the promise to help mitigate climate change? In addressing these questions, LUMIP will also address a range of more detailed science questions to get at process-level attribution, uncertainty, data requirements, and other related issues in more depth and sophistication than possible in a multi-model context to date. There will be particular focus on the separation and quantification of the effects on climate from LULCC relative to all forcings, separation of biogeochemical from biogeophysical effects of land use, the unique impacts of land-cover change vs. land-management change, modulation of land-use impact on climate by land–atmosphere coupling strength, and the extent to which impacts of enhanced CO2 concentrations on plant photosynthesis are modulated by past and future land use. LUMIP involves three major sets of science activities: (1) development of an updated and expanded historical and future land-use data set, (2) an experimental protocol for specific LUMIP experiments for CMIP6, and (3) definition of metrics and diagnostic protocols that quantify model performance, and related sensitivities, with respect to LULCC. In this paper, we describe LUMIP activity (2), i.e., the LUMIP simulations that will formally be part of CMIP6. These experiments are explicitly designed to be complementary to simulations requested in the CMIP6 DECK and historical simulations and other CMIP6 MIPs including ScenarioMIP, C4MIP, LS3MIP, and DAMIP. LUMIP includes a two-phase experimental design. Phase one features idealized coupled and land-only model simulations designed to advance process-level understanding of LULCC impacts on climate, as well as to quantify model sensitivity to potential land-cover and land-use change. Phase two experiments focus on quantification of the historic impact of land use and the potential for future land management decisions to aid in mitigation of climate change. This paper documents these simulations in detail, explains their rationale, outlines plans for analysis, and describes a new subgrid land-use tile data request for selected variables (reporting model output data separately for primary and secondary land, crops, pasture, and urban land-use types). It is essential that modeling groups participating in LUMIP adhere to the experimental design as closely as possible and clearly report how the model experiments were executed.
Deriving comprehensive forest structure information from mobile laser scanning observations using automated point cloud classificationThe advent of mobile laser scanning has enabled time efficient and cost effective collection of forest structure information. To make use of this technology in calibrating or evaluating models of forest and landscape dynamics, there is a need to systematically and reproducibly automate the processing of LiDAR point clouds into quantities of forest structural components. Here we propose a method to classify vegetation structural components of an open-understorey eucalyptus forest, scanned with a ‘Zebedee’ mobile laser scanner. It detected 98% of the tree stems (N = 50) and 80% of the elevated understorey components (N = 15). Automatically derived DBH values agreed with manual field measurements with r2 = 0.72, RMSE = 3.8 cm, (N = 27), and total basal area agreed within 1.5%. Though this methodological study was restricted to one ecosystem, the results are promising for use in applications such as fuel load, habitat structure, and biomass estimations.
The Impact of Fine-Scale Disturbances on the Predictability of Vegetation Dynamics and Carbon FluxPredictions from forest ecosystem models are limited in part by large uncertainties in the current state of the land surface, as previous disturbances have important and lasting influences on ecosystem structure and fluxes that can be difficult to detect. Likewise, future disturbances also present a challenge to prediction as their dynamics are episodic and complex and occur across a range of spatial and temporal scales. While large extreme events such as tropical cyclones, fires, or pest outbreaks can produce dramatic consequences, small fine-scale disturbance events are typically much more common and may be as or even more important. This study focuses on the impacts of these smaller disturbance events on the predictability of vegetation dynamics and carbon flux. Using data on vegetation structure collected for the same domain at two different times, i.e. “repeat lidar data”, we test high-resolution model predictions of vegetation dynamics and carbon flux across a range of spatial scales at an important tropical forest site at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. We found that predicted height change from a height-structured ecosystem model compared well to lidar measured height change at the domain scale (~150 ha), but that the model-data mismatch increased exponentially as the spatial scale of evaluation decreased below 20 ha. We demonstrate that such scale-dependent errors can be attributed to errors predicting the pattern of fine-scale forest disturbances. The results of this study illustrate the strong impact fine-scale forest disturbances have on forest dynamics, ultimately limiting the spatial resolution of accurate model predictions.
Potential Vegetation and Carbon Redistribution in Northern North America from Climate ChangeThere are strong relationships between climate and ecosystems. With the prospect of anthropogenic forcing accelerating climate change, there is a need to understand how terrestrial vegetation responds to this change as it influences the carbon balance. Previous studies have primarily addressed this question using empirically based models relating the observed pattern of vegetation and climate, together with scenarios of potential future climate change, to predict how vegetation may redistribute. Unlike previous studies, here we use an advanced mechanistic, individually based, ecosystem model to predict the terrestrial vegetation response from future climate change. The use of such a model opens up opportunities to test with remote sensing data, and the possibility of simulating the transient response to climate change over large domains. The model was first run with a current climatology at half-degree resolution and compared to remote sensing data on dominant plant functional types for northern North America for validation. Future climate data were then used as inputs to predict the equilibrium response of vegetation in terms of dominant plant functional type and carbon redistribution. At the domain scale, total forest cover changed by ~2% and total carbon storage increased by ~8% in response to climate change. These domain level changes were the result of much larger gross changes within the domain. Evergreen forest cover decreased 48% and deciduous forest cover increased 77%. The dominant plant functional type changed on 58% of the sites, while total carbon in deciduous vegetation increased 107% and evergreen vegetation decreased 31%. The percent of terrestrial carbon from deciduous and evergreen plant functional types changed from 27%/73% under current climate conditions, to 54%/46% under future climate conditions. These large predicted changes in vegetation and carbon in response to future climate change are comparable to previous empirically based estimates, and motivate the need for future development with this mechanistic model to estimate the transient response to future climate changes.
Spatiotemporal patterns of terrestrial gross primary productionGreat advances have been made in the last decade in quantifying and understanding the spatiotemporal patterns of terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) with ground, atmospheric, and space observations. However, although global GPP estimates exist, each data set relies upon assumptions and none of the available data are based only on measurements. Consequently, there is no consensus on the global total GPP and large uncertainties exist in its benchmarking. The objective of this review is to assess how the different available data sets predict the spatiotemporal patterns of GPP, identify the differences among data sets, and highlight the main advantages/disadvantages of each data set. We compare GPP estimates for the historical period (1990–2009) from two observation-based data sets (Model Tree Ensemble and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) to coupled carbon-climate models and terrestrial carbon cycle models from the Fifth Climate Model Intercomparison Project and TRENDY projects and to a new hybrid data set (CARBONES). Results show a large range in the mean global GPP estimates. The different data sets broadly agree on GPP seasonal cycle in terms of phasing, while there is still discrepancy on the amplitude. For interannual variability (IAV) and trends, there is a clear separation between the observation-based data that show little IAV and trend, while the process-based models have large GPP variability and significant trends. These results suggest that there is an urgent need to improve observation-based data sets and develop carbon cycle modeling with processes that are currently treated either very simplistically to correctly estimate present GPP and better quantify the future uptake of carbon dioxide by the world's vegetation.
Local discrepancies in continental scale biomass maps: a case study over forested and non-forested landscapes in Maryland, USABackground Continental-scale aboveground biomass maps are increasingly available, but their estimates vary widely, particularly at high resolution. A comprehensive understanding of map discrepancies is required to improve their effectiveness in carbon accounting and local decision-making. To this end, we compare four continental-scale maps with a recent high-resolution lidar-derived biomass map over Maryland, USA. We conduct detailed comparisons at pixel-, county-, and state-level. Results Spatial patterns of biomass are broadly consistent in all maps, but there are large differences at fine scales (RMSD 48.5–92.7 Mg ha −1 ). Discrepancies reduce with aggregation and the agreement among products improves at the county level. However, continental scale maps exhibit residual negative biases in mean (33.0–54.6 Mg ha −1 ) and total biomass (3.5–5.8 Tg) when compared to the high-resolution lidar biomass map. Three of the four continental scale maps reach near-perfect agreement at ~4 km and onward but do not converge with the high-resolution biomass map even at county scale. At the State level, these maps underestimate biomass by 30–80 Tg in forested and 40–50 Tg in non-forested areas. Conclusions Local discrepancies in continental scale biomass maps are caused by factors including data inputs, modeling approaches, forest/non-forest definitions and time lags. There is a net underestimation over high biomass forests and non-forested areas that could impact carbon accounting at all levels. Local, high-resolution lidar-derived biomass maps provide a valuable bottom-up reference to improve the analysis and interpretation of large-scale maps produced in carbon monitoring systems.
Sensitivity of Multi-Source SAR Backscatter to Changes in Forest Aboveground BiomassAccurate estimates of forest aboveground biomass (AGB) after anthropogenic disturbance could reduce uncertainties in the carbon budget of terrestrial ecosystems and provide critical information to policy makers. Yet, the loss of carbon due to forest disturbance and the gain from post-disturbance recovery have not been sufficiently assessed. In this study, a sensitivity analysis was first conducted to investigate: (1) the influence of incidence angle and soil moisture on Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) backscatter; (2) the feasibility of cross-image normalization between multi-temporal and multi-sensor SAR data; and (3) the possibility of applying normalized backscatter data to detect forest biomass changes. An empirical model was used to reduce incidence angle effects, followed by cross-image normalization procedure to lessen soil moisture effect. Changes in forest biomass at medium spatial resolution (100 m) were mapped using both spaceborne and airborne SAR data. Results indicate that (1) the effect of incidence angle on SAR backscatter could be reduced to less than 1 dB by the correction model for airborne SAR data; (2) over 50% of the changes in SAR backscatter due to soil moisture could be eliminated by the cross-image normalization procedure; and (3) forest biomass changes greater than 100 Mg·ha−1 or above 50% of 150 Mg·ha−1 are detectable using cross-normalized SAR data.
Comparing MODIS Net Primary Production Estimates with Terrestrial National Forest Inventory Data in AustriaThe mission of this study is to compare Net Primary Productivity (NPP) estimates using (i) forest inventory data and (ii) spatio-temporally continuous MODIS (MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) remote sensing data for Austria. While forest inventories assess the change in forest growth based on repeated individual tree measurements (DBH, height etc.), the MODIS NPP estimates are based on ecophysiological processes such as photosynthesis, respiration and carbon allocation. We obtained repeated national forest inventory data from Austria, calculated a “ground-based” NPP estimate and compared the results with “space-based” MODIS NPP estimates using different daily climate data. The MODIS NPP estimates using local Austrian climate data exhibited better compliance with the forest inventory driven NPP estimates than the MODIS NPP predictions using global climate data sets. Stand density plays a key role in addressing the differences between MODIS driven NPP estimates versus terrestrial driven inventory NPP estimates. After addressing stand density, both results are comparable across different scales. As forest management changes stand density, these findings suggest that management issues are important in understanding the observed discrepancies between MODIS and terrestrial NPP.
Local cooling and warming effects of forests based on satellite observationsThe biophysical effects of forests on climate have been extensively studied with climate models. However, models cannot accurately reproduce local climate effects due to their coarse spatial resolution and uncertainties, and field observations are valuable but often insufficient due to their limited coverage. Here we present new evidence acquired from global satellite data to analyse the biophysical effects of forests on local climate. Results show that tropical forests have a strong cooling effect throughout the year; temperate forests show moderate cooling in summer and moderate warming in winter with net cooling annually; and boreal forests have strong warming in winter and moderate cooling in summer with net warming annually. The spatiotemporal cooling or warming effects are mainly driven by the two competing biophysical effects, evapotranspiration and albedo, which in turn are strongly influenced by rainfall and snow. Implications of our satellite-based study could be useful for informing local forestry policies.
Future habitat loss and extinctions driven by land-use change in biodiversity hotspots under four scenarios of climate-change mitigationNumerous species have been pushed into extinction as an increasing portion of Earth's land surface has been appropriated for human enterprise. In the future, global biodiversity will be affected by both climate change and land-use change, the latter of which is currently the primary driver of species extinctions. How societies address climate change will critically affect biodiversity because climate-change mitigation policies will reduce direct climate-change impacts; however, these policies will influence land-use decisions, which could have negative impacts on habitat for a substantial number of species. We assessed the potential impact future climate policy could have on the loss of habitable area in biodiversity hotspots due to associated land-use changes. We estimated past extinctions from historical land-use changes (1500–2005) based on the global gridded land-use data used for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report and habitat extent and species data for each hotspot. We then estimated potential extinctions due to future land-use changes under alternative climate-change scenarios (2005–2100). Future land-use changes are projected to reduce natural vegetative cover by 26-58% in the hotspots. As a consequence, the number of additional species extinctions, relative to those already incurred between 1500 and 2005, due to land-use change by 2100 across all hotspots ranged from about 220 to 21000 (0.2% to 16%), depending on the climate-change mitigation scenario and biological factors such as the slope of the species–area relationship and the contribution of wood harvest to extinctions. These estimates of potential future extinctions were driven by land-use change only and likely would have been higher if the direct effects of climate change had been considered. Future extinctions could potentially be reduced by incorporating habitat preservation into scenario development to reduce projected future land-use changes in hotspots or by lessening the impact of future land-use activities on biodiversity within hotspots.
Global satellite monitoring of climate-induced vegetation disturbancesTerrestrial disturbances are accelerating globally, but their full impact is not quantified because we lack an adequate monitoring system. Remote sensing offers a means to quantify the frequency and extent of disturbances globally. Here, we review the current application of remote sensing to this problem and offer a framework for more systematic analysis in the future. We recommend that any proposed monitoring system should not only detect disturbances, but also be able to: identify the proximate cause(s); integrate a range of spatial scales; and, ideally, incorporate process models to explain the observed patterns and predicted trends in the future. Significant remaining challenges are tied to the ecology of disturbances. To meet these challenges, more effort is required to incorporate ecological principles and understanding into the assessments of disturbance worldwide.
Dynamics of MODIS evapotranspiration in South AfricaThis paper describes the dynamics of evapotranspiration (ET) in South Africa using MOD16 ET satellite-derived data, and analyses the inter-dependency of variables used in the ET algorithm of Mu et al. (2011). Annual evapotranspiration is strongly dependent on rainfall and potential evapotranspiration (PET) in 4 climatically different regions of South Africa. Average ET in South Africa (2000–2012) was estimated to be 303 mm·a-1 or 481.4 x 109 m3·a1 (14% of PET and 67% of rainfall), mainly in the form of plant transpiration (T, 53%) and soil evaporation (Soil E, 39%). Evapotranspiration (ET) showed a slight tendency to decrease over the period 2000–2012 in all climatic regions, except in the south of the country (winter rainfall areas), although annual variations in ET resulted in the 13-year trends not being statistically significant. Evapotranspiration (ET) was spatially dependent on PET, T and vapour pressure deficit (VPD), in particular in winter rainfall and arid to semi-arid climatic regions. Assuming an average rainfall of 450 mm·a-1, and considering current best estimates of runoff (9% of rainfall), groundwater recharge (5%) and water withdrawal (2%), MOD16 ET estimates were about 15% short of the water balance closure in South Africa. The ET algorithm can be refined and tested for applications in restricted areas that are spatially heterogeneous and by accounting for soil water supply limiting conditions.
A Kalman Filter-Based Method to Generate Continuous Time Series of Medium-Resolution NDVI ImagesA data assimilation method to produce complete temporal sequences of synthetic medium-resolution images is presented. The method implements a Kalman filter recursive algorithm that integrates medium and moderate resolution imagery. To demonstrate the approach, time series of 30-m spatial resolution NDVI images at 16-day time steps were generated using Landsat NDVI images and MODIS NDVI products at four sites with different ecosystems and land cover-land use dynamics. The results show that the time series of synthetic NDVI images captured seasonal land surface dynamics and maintained the spatial structure of the landscape at higher spatial resolution. The time series of synthetic medium-resolution NDVI images were validated within a Monte Carlo simulation framework. Normalized residuals decreased as the number of available observations increased, ranging from 0.2 to below 0.1. Residuals were also significantly lower for time series of synthetic NDVI images generated at combined recursion (smoothing) than individually at forward and backward recursions (filtering). Conversely, the uncertainties of the synthetic images also decreased when the number of available observations increased and combined recursions were implemented.
Identifying representative crop rotation patterns and grassland loss in the US Western Corn BeltCrop rotations (the practice of growing crops on the same land in sequential seasons) reside at the core of agronomic management as they can influence key ecosystem services such as crop yields, carbon and nutrient cycling, soil erosion, water quality, pest and disease control. Despite the availability of the Cropland Data Layer (CDL) which provides remotely sensed data on crop type in the US on an annual basis, crop rotation patterns remain poorly mapped due to the lack of tools that allow for consistent and efficient analysis of multi-year CDLs. This study presents the Representative Crop Rotations Using Edit Distance (RECRUIT) algorithm, implemented as a Python software package, to select representative crop rotations by combining and analyzing multi-year CDLs. Using CDLs from 2010 to 2012 for 5 states in the US Midwest, we demonstrate the performance and parameter sensitivity of RECRUIT in selecting representative crop rotations that preserve crop area and capture land-use changes. Selecting only 82 representative crop rotations accounted for over 90% of the spatio-temporal variability of the more than 13,000 rotations obtained from combining the multi-year CDLs. Furthermore, the accuracy of the crop rotation product compared favorably with total state-wide planted crop area available from agricultural census data. The RECRUIT derived crop rotation product was used to detect land-use conversion from grassland to crop cultivation in a wetland dominated part of the US Midwest. Monoculture corn and monoculture soybean cropping were found to comprise the dominant land-use on the newly cultivated lands.
Multi-scale sensitivity of Landsat and MODIS to forest disturbance associated with tropical cyclonesMultispectral data from satellites are widely used to study the effects of extreme weather events in forest ecosystems at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Understanding the sensitivity of these data is important since these phenomena are projected to increase as climate changes. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Landsat data were used to study the observed patterns of forest disturbance at different spatial scales in temperate forest (US Gulf Coast) produced by tropical cyclones Charley (2004), Katrina (2005), Rita (2005), and Gustav (2008), and in tropical rainforests (Australia) produced by cyclone Yasi (2011). The severity of forest disturbance was quantified by applying spectral mixture analysis to the MODIS and Landsat coverages. Field studies were used to verify and compare the results. At the local scale Landsat data was sensitive to forest disturbance both within and between forest types. Higher tree mortality was observed in tropical rainforests than in temperate forests. This observation may be explained by forest type characteristics such as stem density, forest adaptation, and depth of root systems. At the species level, Landsat showed a gradient of forest resilience to tropical cyclone winds that agreed with observational field studies. At the landscape scale, the observed topographic effects on disturbance patterns were well represented by the MODIS data. Positive covariance was observed between surface orientation and slope on the severity of disturbance. Greater levels of disturbance were observed on windward surfaces with steeper slopes. Finally, at the regional scale, MODIS reproduced the pattern of forest damage associated with cyclone winds. The highest level of forest disturbance was observed on the right side of the cyclone track in the northern hemisphere (US Gulf Coast forest ecosystems) and on the left side in the southern hemisphere (Australian rainforest). At the regional scale, forest disturbance was positively associated with the decrease of wind speeds in an inland direction. Tropical cyclone surface winds explained 20% of forest disturbance, although characteristics of cumulative processes could cause this to be underestimated.
Interacting Regional-Scale Regime Shifts for Biodiversity and Ecosystem ServicesCurrent trajectories of global change may lead to regime shifts at regional scales, driving coupled human–environment systems to highly degraded states in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being. For business-as-usual socioeconomic development pathways, regime shifts are projected to occur within the next several decades, to be difficult to reverse, and to have regional- to global-scale impacts on human society. We provide an overview of ecosystem, socioeconomic, and biophysical mechanisms mediating regime shifts and illustrate how these interact at regional scales by aggregation, synergy, and spreading processes. We give detailed examples of interactions for terrestrial ecosystems of central South America and for marine and coastal ecosystems of Southeast Asia. This analysis suggests that degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services over the twenty-first century could be far greater than was previously predicted. We identify key policy and management opportunities at regional to global scales to avoid these shifts.
Data-driven diagnostics of terrestrial carbon dynamics over North AmericaThe exchange of carbon dioxide is a key measure of ecosystem metabolism and a critical intersection between the terrestrial biosphere and the Earth's climate. Despite the general agreement that the terrestrial ecosystems in North America provide a sizeable carbon sink, the size and distribution of the sink remain uncertain. We use a data-driven approach to upscale eddy covariance flux observations from towers to the continental scale by integrating flux observations, meteorology, stand age, aboveground biomass, and a proxy for canopy nitrogen concentrations from AmeriFlux and Fluxnet-Canada Research Network as well as a variety of satellite data streams from the MODIS sensors. We then use the resulting gridded flux estimates from March 2000 to December 2012 to assess the magnitude, distribution, and interannual variability of carbon fluxes for the U.S. and Canada. The mean annual gross primary productivity (GPP), ecosystem respiration (ER), and net ecosystem productivity (NEP) of the U.S. over the period 2001–2012 were 6.84, 5.31, and 1.10 Pg C yr−1 , respectively; the mean annual GPP, ER, and NEP of Canada over the same 12-year period were 3.91, 3.26, and 0.60 Pg C yr−1 , respectively. The mean nationwide annual NEP of natural ecosystems over the period 2001–2012 was 0.53 Pg C yr−1 for the U.S. and 0.49 Pg C yr−1 for the conterminous U.S. Our estimate of the carbon sink for the conterminous U.S. was almost identical with the estimate of the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR). The carbon fluxes exhibited relatively large interannual variability over the study period. The main sources of the interannual variability in carbon fluxes included drought and disturbance. The annual GPP and NEP were strongly related to annual evapotranspiration (ET) for both the U.S. and Canada, showing that the carbon and water cycles were closely coupled. Our gridded flux estimates provided an independent, alternative perspective on ecosystem carbon exchange over North America.
From land use to land cover: restoring the afforestation signal in a coupled integrated assessment – earth system model and the implications for CMIP5 RCP simulationsClimate projections depend on scenarios of fossil fuel emissions and land use change, and the IPCC AR5 parallel process assumes consistent climate scenarios across Integrated Assessment and Earth System Models (IAMs and ESMs). The CMIP5 project used a novel "land use harmonization" based on the Global Land use Model (GLM) to provide ESMs with consistent 1500–2100 land use trajectories generated by historical data and four IAM projections. A direct coupling of the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), GLM, and the Community ESM (CESM) has allowed us to characterize and partially address a major gap in the CMIP5 land coupling design: the lack of a corresponding land cover harmonization. The CMIP5 CESM global afforestation is only 22% of GCAM's 2005 to 2100 RCP4.5 afforestation. Likewise, only 17% of GCAM's 2040 RCP4.5 afforestation, and zero pasture loss, were transmitted to CESM within the directly coupled model. This is a problem because afforestation was relied upon to achieve RCP4.5 climate stabilization. GLM modifications within the directly coupled model did not increase CESM afforestation. Modifying the land use translator in addition to GLM, however, enabled CESM to simulate 66% of GCAM's afforestation in 2040, and 94% of GCAM's pasture loss as grassland and shrubland losses. This additional afforestation increases vegetation carbon gain by 19 PgC and decreases atmospheric CO2 gain by 8 ppmv from 2005 to 2040, implying different RCP4.5 climate scenarios between CMIP5 GCAM and CESM. Although the IAMs and ESMs were not expected to have exactly the same climate forcing, due in part to different terrestrial carbon cycles and atmospheric radiation algorithms, the ESMs were expected to project climates representative of the RCP scenarios. Similar land cover inconsistencies exist in other CMIP5 model results, primarily because land cover information is not shared between models. High RCP4.5 afforestation might also contribute to inconsistencies as some ESMs might impose bioclimatic limits to potential forest area and have different rates of forest growth than projected by RCP4.5. Further work to harmonize land cover among models will be required to address this problem.
Human Land-Use Practices Lead to Global Long-Term Increases in Photosynthetic CapacityLong-term trends in photosynthetic capacity measured with the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) are usually associated with climate change. Human impacts on the global land surface are typically not accounted for. Here, we provide the first global analysis quantifying the effect of the earth’s human footprint on NDVI trends. Globally, more than 20% of the variability in NDVI trends was explained by anthropogenic factors such as land use, nitrogen fertilization, and irrigation. Intensely used land classes, such as villages, showed the greatest rates of increase in NDVI, more than twice than those of forests. These findings reveal that factors beyond climate influence global long-term trends in NDVI and suggest that global climate change models and analyses of primary productivity should incorporate land use effects.
Remote Sensing Assessment of Forest Disturbance across Complex Mountainous Terrain: The Pattern and Severity of Impacts of Tropical Cyclone Yasi on Australian RainforestsTopography affects the patterns of forest disturbance produced by tropical cyclones. It determines the degree of exposure of a surface and can alter wind characteristics. Whether multispectral remote sensing data can sense the effect of topography on disturbance is a question that deserves attention given the multi-scale spatial coverage of these data and the projected increase in intensity of the strongest cyclones. Here, multispectral satellite data, topographic maps and cyclone surface wind data were used to study the patterns of disturbance in an Australian rainforest with complex mountainous terrain produced by tropical cyclone Yasi (2011). The cyclone surface wind data (H*wind) was produced by the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (HRD/NOAA), and this was the first time that this data was produced for a cyclone outside of United States territory. A disturbance map was obtained by applying spectral mixture analyses on satellite data and presented a significant correlation with field-measured tree mortality. Our results showed that, consistent with cyclones in the southern hemisphere, multispectral data revealed that forest disturbance was higher on the left side of the cyclone track. The highest level of forest disturbance occurred in forests along the path of the cyclone track (±30°). Levels of forest disturbance decreased with decreasing slope and with an aspect facing off the track of the cyclone or away from the dominant surface winds. An increase in disturbance with surface elevation was also observed. However, areas affected by the same wind intensity presented increased levels of disturbance with increasing elevation suggesting that complex terrain interactions act to speed up wind at higher elevations. Yasi produced an important offset to Australia’s forest carbon sink in 2010. We concluded that multispectral data was sensitive to the main effects of complex topography on disturbance patterns. High resolution cyclone wind surface data are needed in order to quantify the effects of topographic accelerations on cyclone related forest disturbances.
Global carbon budget 2013Accurate assessment of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and their redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and terrestrial biosphere is important to better understand the global carbon cycle, support the development of climate policies, and project future climate change. Here we describe data sets and a methodology to quantify all major components of the global carbon budget, including their uncertainties, based on the combination of a range of data, algorithms, statistics and model estimates and their interpretation by a broad scientific community. We discuss changes compared to previous estimates, consistency within and among components, alongside methodology and data limitations. CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion and cement production (EFF) are based on energy statistics, while emissions from land-use change (ELUC), mainly deforestation, are based on combined evidence from land-cover change data, fire activity associated with deforestation, and models. The global atmospheric CO2 concentration is measured directly and its rate of growth (GATM) is computed from the annual changes in concentration. The mean ocean CO2 sink (SOCEAN) is based on observations from the 1990s, while the annual anomalies and trends are estimated with ocean models. The variability in SOCEAN is evaluated for the first time in this budget with data products based on surveys of ocean CO2 measurements. The global residual terrestrial CO2 sink (SLAND) is estimated by the difference of the other terms of the global carbon budget and compared to results of independent dynamic global vegetation models forced by observed climate, CO2 and land cover change (some including nitrogen–carbon interactions). All uncertainties are reported as ±1σ, reflecting the current capacity to characterise the annual estimates of each component of the global carbon budget. For the last decade available (2003–2012), EFF was 8.6 ± 0.4 GtC yr−1, ELUC 0.9 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1, GATM 4.3 ± 0.1 GtC yr−1, SOCEAN 2.5 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1, and SLAND 2.8 ± 0.8 GtC yr−1. For year 2012 alone, EFF grew to 9.7 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1, 2.2% above 2011, reflecting a continued growing trend in these emissions, GATM was 5.1 ± 0.2 GtC yr−1, SOCEAN was 2.9 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1, and assuming an ELUC of 1.0 ± 0.5 GtC yr−1 (based on the 2001–2010 average), SLAND was 2.7 ± 0.9 GtC yr−1. GATM was high in 2012 compared to the 2003–2012 average, almost entirely reflecting the high EFF. The global atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 392.52 ± 0.10 ppm averaged over 2012. We estimate that EFF will increase by 2.1% (1.1–3.1%) to 9.9 ± 0.5 GtC in 2013, 61% above emissions in 1990, based on projections of world gross domestic product and recent changes in the carbon intensity of the economy. With this projection, cumulative emissions of CO2 will reach about 535 ± 55 GtC for 1870–2013, about 70% from EFF (390 ± 20 GtC) and 30% from ELUC (145 ± 50 GtC).
High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover ChangeQuantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.
The impacts of tropical cyclones on the net carbon balance of eastern US forests (1851–2000)In temperate forests of the eastern US, tropical cyclones are a principal agent of catastrophic wind damage, with dramatic impacts on the structure and functioning of forests. Substantial progress has been made to quantify forest damage and resulting gross carbon emissions from tropical cyclones. However, the net effect of storms on the carbon balance of forests depends not only on the biomass lost in single events, but also on the uptake during recovery from a mosaic of past events. This study estimates the net impacts of tropical cyclones on the carbon balance of US forests over the period 1851–2000. To track both disturbance and recovery and to isolate the effects of storms, a modeling framework is used combining gridded historical estimates of mortality and damage with a mechanistic model using an ensemble approach. The net effect of tropical cyclones on the carbon balance is shown to depend strongly on the spatial and temporal scales of analysis. On average, tropical cyclones contribute a net carbon source over latter half of the 19th century. However, throughout much of the 20th century a regional carbon sink is estimated resulting from periods of forest recovery exceeding damage. The large-scale net annual flux resulting from tropical cyclones varies by up to 50 Tg C yr−1, an amount equivalent to 17%–36% of the US forest carbon sink.
Historical warming reduced due to enhanced land carbon uptakePrevious studies have demonstrated the importance of enhanced vegetation growth under future elevated atmospheric CO2 for 21st century climate warming. Surprisingly no study has completed an analogous assessment for the historical period, during which emissions of greenhouse gases increased rapidly and land-use changes (LUC) dramatically altered terrestrial carbon sources and sinks. Using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory comprehensive Earth System Model ESM2G and a reconstruction of the LUC, we estimate that enhanced vegetation growth has lowered the historical atmospheric CO2 concentration by 85 ppm, avoiding an additional 0.31 ± 0.06 °C warming. We demonstrate that without enhanced vegetation growth the total residual terrestrial carbon flux (i.e., the net land flux minus LUC flux) would be a source of 65–82 Gt of carbon (GtC) to atmosphere instead of the historical residual carbon sink of 186–192 GtC, a carbon saving of 251–274 GtC.
Effect of anthropogenic land-use and land- cover changes on climate and land carbon storage in CMIP5 projections for the 21st centuryThe effects of land-use changes on climate are assessed using specified-concentration simulations complementary to the representative concentration pathway 2.6 (RCP2.6) and RCP8.5 scenarios performed for phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). This analysis focuses on differences in climate and land–atmosphere fluxes between the ensemble averages of simulations with and without land-use changes by the end of the twenty-first century. Even though common land-use scenarios are used, the areas of crops and pastures are specific for each Earth system model (ESM). This is due to different interpretations of land-use classes. The analysis reveals that fossil fuel forcing dominates land-use forcing. In addition, the effects of land-use changes are globally not significant, whereas they are significant for regions with land-use changes exceeding 10%. For these regions, three out of six participating models—the Second Generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2); Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model, version 2 (Earth System) (HadGEM2-ES); and Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Earth System Model (MIROC-ESM)—reveal statistically significant changes in mean annual surface air temperature. In addition, changes in land surface albedo, available energy, and latent heat fluxes are small but significant for most ESMs in regions affected by land-use changes. These climatic effects are relatively small, as land-use changes in the RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios are small in magnitude and mainly limited to tropical and subtropical regions. The relative importance of the climatic effects of land-use changes is higher for the RCP2.6 scenario, which considers an expansion of biofuel croplands as a climate mitigation option. The underlying similarity among all models is the loss in global land carbon storage due to land-use changes.
Greenhouse Gas Policy Influences Climate via Direct Effects of Land-Use ChangeProposed climate mitigation measures do not account for direct biophysical climate impacts of land-use change (LUC), nor do the stabilization targets modeled for phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) representative concentration pathways (RCPs). To examine the significance of such effects on global and regional patterns of climate change, a baseline and an alternative scenario of future anthropogenic activity are simulated within the Integrated Earth System Model, which couples the Global Change Assessment Model, Global Land-Use Model, and Community Earth System Model. The alternative scenario has high biofuel utilization and approximately 50% less global forest cover than the baseline, standard RCP4.5 scenario. Both scenarios stabilize radiative forcing from atmospheric constituents at 4.5 W m−2 by 2100. Thus, differences between their climate predictions quantify the biophysical effects of LUC. Offline radiative transfer and land model simulations are also utilized to identify forcing and feedback mechanisms driving the coupled response. Boreal deforestation is found to strongly influence climate because of increased albedo coupled with a regional-scale water vapor feedback. Globally, the alternative scenario yields a twenty-first-century warming trend that is 0.5°C cooler than baseline, driven by a 1 W m−2 mean decrease in radiative forcing that is distributed unevenly around the globe. Some regions are cooler in the alternative scenario than in 2005. These results demonstrate that neither climate change nor actual radiative forcing is uniquely related to atmospheric forcing targets such as those found in the RCPs but rather depend on particulars of the socioeconomic pathways followed to meet each target.
Understorey fire frequency and the fate of burned forests in southern AmazoniaRecent drought events underscore the vulnerability of Amazon forests to understorey fires. The long-term impact of fires on biodiversity and forest carbon stocks depends on the frequency of fire damages and deforestation rates of burned forests. Here, we characterized the spatial and temporal dynamics of understorey fires (1999–2010) and deforestation (2001–2010) in southern Amazonia using new satellite-based estimates of annual fire activity (greater than 50 ha) and deforestation (greater than 10 ha). Understorey forest fires burned more than 85 500 km2 between 1999 and 2010 (2.8% of all forests). Forests that burned more than once accounted for 16 per cent of all understorey fires. Repeated fire activity was concentrated in Mato Grosso and eastern Pará, whereas single fires were widespread across the arc of deforestation. Routine fire activity in Mato Grosso coincided with annual periods of low night-time relative humidity, suggesting a strong climate control on both single and repeated fires. Understorey fires occurred in regions with active deforestation, yet the interannual variability of fire and deforestation were uncorrelated, and only 2.6 per cent of forests that burned between 1999 and 2008 were deforested for agricultural use by 2010. Evidence from the past decade suggests that future projections of frontier landscapes in Amazonia should separately consider economic drivers to project future deforestation and climate to project fire risk.
Sensitivity of Climate Mitigation Strategies to Natural DisturbancesThe present and future concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide depends on both anthropogenic and natural sources and sinks of carbon. Most proposed climate mitigation strategies rely on a progressive transition to carbon-efficient technologies to reduce industrial emissions, substantially supported by policies to maintain or enhance the terrestrial carbon stock in forests and other ecosystems. This strategy may be challenged if terrestrial sequestration capacity is affected by future climate feedbacks, but how and to what extent is little understood. Here, we show that climate mitigation strategies are highly sensitive to future natural disturbance rates (e.g. fires, hurricanes, droughts), because of the potential effect of disturbances on the terrestrial carbon balance. Generally, altered disturbance rates affect the pace of societal and technological transitions required to achieve the mitigation target, with substantial consequences on the energy sector and the global economy. An understanding of the future dynamics and consequences of natural disturbances on terrestrial carbon balance is thus essential for developing robust climate mitigation strategies and policies.
Essential Biodiversity VariablesReducing the rate of biodiversity loss and averting dangerous biodiversity change are international goals, reasserted by the Aichi Targets for 2020 by Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) after failure to meet the 2010 target (1, 2). However, there is no global, harmonized observation system for delivering regular, timely data on biodiversity change (3). With the first plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) soon under way, partners from the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) (4) are developing—and seeking consensus around—Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) that could form the basis of monitoring programs worldwide.
Sustainable bioenergy production from marginal lands in the US MidwestLegislation on biofuels production in the USA1; and Europe2,3; is directing food crops towards the production of grain-based ethanol2,3;, which can have detrimental consequences for soil car- bon sequestration4;, nitrous oxide emissions5;, nitrate pollution6;, biodiversity7; and human health8;. An alternative is to grow lignocellulosic (cellulosic) crops on ‘marginal’ lands9;. Cellulosic feedstocks can have positive environmental outcomes10,11; and could make up a substantial proportion of future energy port- folios12,13;. However, the availability of marginal lands for cellulosic feedstock production, and the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, remains uncertain. Here we evaluate the potential for marginal lands in ten Midwestern US states to produce sizeable amounts of biomass and concurrently mitigate GHG emissions. In a comparative assessment of six alternative cropping systems over 20 years, we found that successional herbaceous vegetation, once well established, has a direct GHG emissions mitigation capacity that rivals that of purpose-grown crops (-851 ±46 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions per square metre per year (gCO2e m-2 yr-1)). If fertilized, these communities have the capacity to produce about 63 ± 5 gigajoules of ethanol energy per hectare per year. By con- trast, an adjacent, no-till corn–soybean–wheat rotation produces on average 41 ± 1 gigajoules of biofuel energy per hectare per year and has a net direct mitigation capacity of -397 ± 32 gCO2e m-2 yr-1; a continuous corn rotation would probably produce about 62 ±7 gigajoules of biofuel energy per hectare per year, with 13% less mitigation. We also perform quantitative modelling of successional vegetation on marginal lands in the region at a resolution of 0.4 hectares, constrained by the requirement that each modelled loca- tion be within 80 kilometres of a potential biorefinery. Our results suggest that such vegetation could produce about 21 gigalitres of ethanol per year from around 11 million hectares, or approximately 25 per cent of the 2022 target for cellulosic biofuel mandated by the US Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, with no initial carbon debt nor the indirect land-use costs associated with food- based biofuels. Other regional-scale aspects of biofuel sustainability2, such as water quality11,14; and biodiversity15;, await future study.
A “Matchstick Model” of microwave backscatter from a forestGiven that the majority of biomass is contained in the stems of trees within forests (as much as 90%), a new radar modelling approach is proposed here wherein the stems are the major biomass contributor in the context of Synthetic Aperture Radar backscatter sensitivity to forest biomass. The new model regards stems are as “matchsticks” consisting of constant radius, constant density, and constant dielectric properties. Furthermore, by considering only the larger constituents of the forest a clearer understanding of the correlation of biomass with backscatter from P and VHF Band SAR can be obtained. Using backscatter data, and specifically the trends, produced from the RT2 radiative transfer model this paper considers the effects of SAR scattering when interacting with forest stands consisting of identical vertical stems, or matchsticks. SAR frequencies of 50 MHz (VHF) and 429 MHz (P Band) are used to generate a comparative radar interaction data. These not only allow a comparison of the scattering of SAR signals of different wavelengths but also of how interactions with stems can reveal novel clues as to the source of the backscatter saturation phenomenon of forests. Removing the random volume scattering aspect of a forest, the canopy, would be expected to eliminate the saturation behaviour which occurs at increasing levels of biomass density, an effect believed to be due to extinction effects, but is shown here to not be the case. Results reveal that saturation behaviour can occur even for the low number density case where increasing the size of stems through the radii associated with Rayleigh, Mie and Optical scattering will result in backscatter saturation as the biomass density is increased. Consistent with this finding, a forest of solely vertical stems will exhibit saturation behaviour at lower biomass density values when lower planting densities of similar stems are used. In this study the backscatter model considers the ground contribution to be negligible but does include the double bounce as a result of interactions between the stems and ground. Also considered are Mie backscatter oscillations which are shown to average out when using both non-vertical stems and random radius values about a mean, both independently and collectively. These “Mie” effects can also be removed by altering the incident SAR angle. These findings allow a reduction of the backscattering scenario of forests to a two-region problem involving solely Rayleigh and Optical scattering. This serves to further provide an explanation as to the origin of saturation, whereby the balance between the Optical scattering increase and the matchstick number density decrease cancel each other out. The important conclusion is that backscatter does not measure biomass, but measures structural trends that are correlated with biomass in different ways, driven by stand level competition, resource use, etc. As a result different forest growth regimes should expect different backscatter–biomass trends.
A Macroecological Analysis of SERA Derived Forest Heights and Implications for Forest Volume Remote SensingIndividual trees have been shown to exhibit strong relationships between DBH, height and volume. Often such studies are cited as justification for forest volume or standing biomass estimation through remote sensing. With resolution of common satellite remote sensing systems generally too low to resolve individuals, and a need for larger coverage, these systems rely on descriptive heights, which account for tree collections in forests. For remote sensing and allometric applications, this height is not entirely understood in terms of its location. Here, a forest growth model (SERA) analyzes forest canopy height relationships with forest wood volume. Maximum height, mean, H100, and Lorey's height are examined for variability under plant number density, resource and species. Our findings, shown to be allometrically consistent with empirical measurements for forested communities world-wide, are analyzed for implications to forest remote sensing techniques such as LiDAR and RADAR. Traditional forestry measures of maximum height, and to a lesser extent H100 and Lorey's, exhibit little consistent correlation with forest volume across modeled conditions. The implication is that using forest height to infer volume or biomass from remote sensing requires species and community behavioral information to infer accurate estimates using height alone. SERA predicts mean height to provide the most consistent relationship with volume of the height classifications studied and overall across forest variations. This prediction agrees with empirical data collected from conifer and angiosperm forests with plant densities ranging between 102–106 plants/hectare and heights 6–49 m. Height classifications investigated are potentially linked to radar scattering centers with implications for allometry. These findings may be used to advance forest biomass estimation accuracy through remote sensing. Furthermore, Lorey's height with its specific relationship to remote sensing physics is recommended as a more universal indicator of volume when using remote sensing than achieved using either maximum height or H100.
Characterizing 3D vegetation structure from space: Mission requirementsHuman and natural forces are rapidly modifying the global distribution and structure of terrestrial ecosystems on which all of life depends, altering the global carbon cycle, affecting our climate now and for the foreseeable future, causing steep reductions in species diversity, and endangering Earth's sustainability.
To understand changes and trends in terrestrial ecosystems and their functioning as carbon sources and sinks, and to characterize the impact of their changes on climate, habitat and biodiversity, new space assets are urgently needed to produce high spatial resolution global maps of the three-dimensional (3D) structure of vegetation, its biomass above ground, the carbon stored within and the implications for atmospheric green house gas concentrations and climate. These needs were articulated in a 2007 National Research Council (NRC) report (NRC, 2007) recommending a new satellite mission, DESDynI, carrying an L-band Polarized Synthetic Aperture Radar (Pol-SAR) and a multi-beam lidar (Light RAnging And Detection) operating at 1064 nm. The objectives of this paper are to articulate the importance of these new, multi-year, 3D vegetation structure and biomass measurements, to briefly review the feasibility of radar and lidar remote sensing technology to meet these requirements, to define the data products and measurement requirements, and to consider implications of mission durations. The paper addresses these objectives by synthesizing research results and other input from a broad community of terrestrial ecology, carbon cycle, and remote sensing scientists and working groups. We conclude that:
(1) Current global biomass and 3-D vegetation structure information is unsuitable for both science and management and policy. The only existing global datasets of biomass are approximations based on combining land cover type and representative carbon values, instead of measurements of actual biomass. Current measurement attempts based on radar and multispectral data have low explanatory power outside low biomass areas. There is no current capability for repeatable disturbance and regrowth estimates.
(2) The science and policy needs for information on vegetation 3D structure can be successfully addressed by a mission capable of producing (i) a first global inventory of forest biomass with a spatial resolution 1 km or finer and unprecedented accuracy (ii) annual global disturbance maps at a spatial resolution of 1 ha with subsequent biomass accumulation rates at resolutions of 1 km or finer, and (iii) transects of vertical and horizontal forest structure with 30 m along-transect measurements globally at 25 m spatial resolution, essential for habitat characterization.
We also show from the literature that lidar profile samples together with wall-to-wall L-band quad-pol-SAR imagery and ecosystem dynamics models can work together to satisfy these vegetation 3D structure and biomass measurement requirements. Finally we argue that the technology readiness levels of combined pol-SAR and lidar instruments are adequate for space flight. Remaining to be worked out, are the particulars of a lidar/pol-SAR mission design that is feasible and at a minimum satisfies the information and measurement requirement articulated herein.
Harmonization of Land-Use Scenarios for the Period 1500-2100: 600 Years of Global Gridded Annual Land-Use Transitions, Wood Harvest, and Resulting Secondary LandsIn preparation for the fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international community is developing new advanced Earth System Models (ESMs) to assess the combined effects of human activities (e.g. land use and fossil fuel emissions) on the carbon-climate system. In addition, four Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios of the future (2005–2100) are being provided by four Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) teams to be used as input to the ESMs for future carbon-climate projections (Moss et al. 2010). The diversity of approaches and requirements among IAMs and ESMs for tracking land-use change, along with the dependence of model projections on land-use history, presents a challenge for effectively passing data between these communities and for smoothly transitioning from the historical estimates to future projections. Here, a harmonized set of land-use scenarios are presented that smoothly connects historical reconstructions of land use with future projections, in the format required by ESMs. The land-use harmonization strategy estimates fractional land-use patterns and underlying land-use transitions annually for the time period 1500–2100 at 0.5°×0.5° resolution. Inputs include new gridded historical maps of crop and pasture data from HYDE 3.1 for 1500–2005, updated estimates of historical national wood harvest and of shifting cultivation, and future information on crop, pasture, and wood harvest from the IAM implementations of the RCPs for the period 2005–2100. The computational method integrates these multiple data sources, while minimizing differences at the transition between the historical reconstruction ending conditions and IAM initial conditions, and working to preserve the future changes depicted by the IAMs at the grid cell level. This study for the first time harmonizes land-use history data together with future scenario information from multiple IAMs into a single consistent, spatially gridded, set of land-use change scenarios for studies of human impacts on the past, present, and future Earth system.
The Representative Concentration Pathways: An OverviewAbstract This paper summarizes the development process and main characteristics of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), a set of four new pathways developed for the climate modeling community as a basis for long-term and near-term modeling experiments. The four RCPs together span the range of year 2100 radiative forcing values found in the open literature, i.e. from 2.6 to 8.5 W/m2. The RCPs are the product of an innovative collaboration between integrated assessment modelers, climate modelers, terrestrial ecosystem modelers and emission inventory experts. The resulting product forms a comprehensive data set with high spatial and sectoral resolutions for the period extending to 2100. Land use and emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases are reported mostly at a 0.5×0.5 degree spatial resolution, with air pollutants also provided per sector (for well-mixed gases, a coarser resolution is used). The underlying integrated assessment model outputs for land use, atmospheric emissions and concentration data were harmonized across models and scenarios to ensure consistency with historical observations while preserving individual scenario trends. For most variables, the RCPs cover a wide range of the existing literature. The RCPs are supplemented with extensions (Extended Concentration Pathways, ECPs), which allow
The HadGEM2-ES implementation of CMIP5 centennial simulationsThe scientific understanding of the Earth's climate system, including the central question of how the climate system is likely to respond to human-induced perturbations, is comprehensively captured in GCMs and Earth System Models (ESM). Diagnosing the simulated climate response, and comparing responses across different models, is crucially dependent on transparent assumptions of how the GCM/ESM has been driven – especially because the implementation can involve subjective decisions and may differ between modelling groups performing the same experiment. This paper outlines the climate forcings and setup of the Met Office Hadley Centre ESM, HadGEM2-ES for the CMIP5 set of centennial experiments. We document the prescribed greenhouse gas concentrations, aerosol precursors, stratospheric and tropospheric ozone assumptions, as well as implementation of land-use change and natural forcings for the HadGEM2-ES historical and future experiments following the Representative Concentration Pathways. In addition, we provide details of how HadGEM2-ES ensemble members were initialised from the control run and how the palaeoclimate and AMIP experiments, as well as the "emission-driven" RCP experiments were performed.
Building a Model of Collaboration Between Historically Black and Historically White UniversitiesDespite increases over the last two decades in the number of degrees awarded to students from underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, enhancing diversity in these disciplines remains a challenge. This article describes a strategic approach to this challenge—the development of a collaborative partnership between two universities: the historically Black Elizabeth City State University and the historically White University of New Hampshire. The partnership, a type of learning organiza- tion built on three mutually agreed upon principles, strives to enhance opportunities for underrepresented students to pursue careers in the STEM disciplines. This article further describes six promising practices that framed the partnership, which resulted in the submission of nine proposals to federal agencies and the funding of four grants that led to the implementation, research, learning, and evaluation that followed.
Mapping Canopy Damage from Understory Fires in Amazon ForestsUnderstory fires in Amazon forests alter forest structure, species composition, and the likelihood of future disturbance. The annual extent of fire-damaged forest in Amazonia remains uncertain due to difficulties in separating burning from other types of forest damage in satellite data. We developed a new approach, the Burn Damage and Recovery (BDR) algorithm, to identify fire-related canopy damages using spatial and spectral information from multi-year time series of satellite data. The BDR approach identifies understory fires in intact and logged Amazon forests based on the reduction and recovery of live canopy cover in the years following fire damages and the size and shape of individual understory burn scars. The BDR algorithm was applied to time series of Landsat (1997–2004) and MODIS (2000–2005) data covering one Landsat scene (path/row 226/068) in southern Amazonia and the results were compared to field observations, image- derived burn scars, and independent data on selective logging and deforestation. Landsat resolution was essential for detection of burn scars b50 ha, yet these small burns contributed only 12% of all burned forest detected during 1997–2002. MODIS data were suitable for mapping medium (50–500 ha) and large (N500 ha) burn scars that accounted for the majority of all fire-damaged forests in this study. Therefore, moderate resolution satellite data may be suitable to provide estimates of the extent of fire-damaged Amazon forest at a regional scale. In the study region, Landsat-based understory fire damages in 1999 (1508 km2) were an order of magnitude higher than during the 1997–1998 El Niño event (124 km2 and 39 km2, respectively), suggesting a different link between climate and understory fires than previously reported for other Amazon regions. The results in this study illustrate the potential to address critical questions concerning climate and fire risk in Amazon forests by applying the BDR algorithm over larger areas and longer image time series.
Using ICESat's Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) to assess large-scale forest disturbance caused by hurricane KatrinaIn 2005, hurricane Katrina resulted in a large disturbance to U.S. forests. Recent estimates of damage from hurricane Katrina have relied primarily on optical remote sensing and field data. This paper is the first large- scale study to use satellite-based lidar data to quantify changes in forest structure from that event. GLAS data for the years prior to and following hurricane Katrina were compared to wind speed, forest cover, and damage data to assess the adequacy of sensor sampling, and to estimate changes in Mean Canopy Height (MCH) over all areas that experienced tropical force winds and greater. Statistically significant decreases in MCH post-Katrina were found to increase with wind intensity: Tropical Storm ΔMCH = − 0.5 m, Category 1 ΔMCH = − 2 m, and Category 2 ΔMCH = − 4 m. A strong relationship was also found between changes in non-photosynthetic vegetation (ΔNPV), a metric previously shown to be related to storm damage, and post- storm MCH. The season of data acquisition was shown to influence calculations of MCH and MCH loss, but did not preclude the detection of major large-scale patterns of damage. Results from this study show promise for using space-borne lidar for large-scale assessments of forest disturbance, and highlight the need for future data on vegetation structure from space.
Scenarios for Global Biodiversity in the 21st CenturyQuantitative scenarios are coming of age as a tool for evaluating the impact of future socioeconomic development pathways on biodiversity and ecosystem services. We analyze global terrestrial, freshwater, and marine biodiversity scenarios using a range of measures including extinctions, changes in species abundance, habitat loss, and distribution shifts, as well as comparing model projections to observations. Scenarios consistently indicate that biodiversity will continue to decline over the 21st century. However, the range of projected changes is much broader than most studies suggest, partly because there are major opportunities to intervene through better policies, but also because of large uncertainties in projections.
Climate Mitigation and the Future of Tropical LandscapesLand-use change to meet 21st-century demands for food, fuel, and fiber will depend on many interactive factors, including global policies limiting anthropogenic climate change and realized improve- ments in agricultural productivity. Climate-change mitigation policies will alter the decision-making environment for land management, and changes in agricultural productivity will influence cultivated land expansion. We explore to what extent future increases in agricultural productivity might offset conversion of tropical forest lands to crop lands under a climate mitigation policy and a contrasting no-policy scenario in a global integrated assessment model. The Global Change Assessment Model is applied here to simulate a mitigation policy that stabilizes radiative forcing at 4.5 W m!2 (approximately 526 ppm CO2) in the year 2100 by introducing a price for all greenhouse gas emis- sions, including those from land use. These scenarios are simulated with several cases of future agricultural productivity growth rates and the results downscaled to produce gridded maps of potential land-use change. We find that tropical forests are preserved near their present-day extent, and bioenergy crops emerge as an effective mitigation option, only in cases in which a climate mitigation policy that includes an economic price for land-use emissions is in place, and in which agricultural productivity growth continues throughout the century. We find that idealized land-use emissions price assumptions are most effective at limiting deforestation, even when cropland area must increase to meet future food demand. These findings empha- size the importance of accounting for feedbacks from land-use change emissions in global climate change mitigation strategies.
Linking models and data on vegetation structureFor more than a century, scientists have recognized the importance of vegetation structure in understanding forest dynamics. Now future satellite missions such as Deformation, Ecosystem Structure, and Dynamics of Ice (DESDynI) hold the potential to provide unprecedented global data on vegetation structure needed to reduce uncertainties in terrestrial carbon dynamics. Here, we briefly review the uses of data on vegetation structure in ecosystem models, develop and analyze theoretical models to quantify model-data requirements, and describe recent progress using a mechanistic modeling approach utilizing a formal scaling method and data on vegetation structure to improve model predictions. Generally, both limited sampling and coarse resolution averaging lead to model initialization error, which in turn is propagated in subsequent model prediction uncertainty and error. In cases with representative sampling, sufficient resolution, and linear dynamics, errors in initialization tend to compensate at larger spatial scales. However, with inadequate sampling, overly coarse resolution data or models, and nonlinear dynamics, errors in initialization lead to prediction error. A robust model-data framework will require both models and data on vegetation structure sufficient to resolve important environmental gradients and tree-level heterogeneity in forest structure globally.
Estimation of tropical forest height and biomass dynamics using lidar remote sensing at La Selva, Costa RicaIn this paper we present the results of an experiment to measure forest structure and biomass dynamics over the tropical forests of La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica using a medium resolution lidar. Our main objective was to observe changes in forest canopy height, related height metrics, and biomass, and from these map sources and sinks of carbon across the landscape. The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) measured canopy structure over La Selva in 1998 and again in 2005. Changes in waveform metrics were related to field-derived changes in estimated aboveground biomass from a series of old growth and secondary forest plots. Pairwise comparisons of nearly coincident lidar footprints between years showed canopy top height changes that coincided with expected changes based on land cover types. Old growth forests had a net loss in height of -0.33 m, while secondary forests had net gain of 2.08 m. Multiple linear regressionwas used to relate lidar metrics with biomass changes for combined old growth and secondary forest plots, giving an r2 of 0.65 and an RSE of 10.5 Mg/ha, but both parametric and bootstrapped confidence intervals were wide, suggesting weaker model performance. The plot level relationships were then used to map biomass changes across La Selva using LVIS at a 1 ha scale. The spatial patterns of biomass changes matched expected patterns given the distribution of land cover types at La Selva, with secondary forests showing a gain of 25 Mg/ha and old growth forests showing little change (2 Mg/ha). Prediction intervals were calculated to assess uncertainty for each 1 ha cell to ascertain whether the data and methods used could confidently estimate the sign (source or sink) of the biomass changes. The resulting map showed most of the old growth areas as neutral (no net biomass change), with widely scattered and isolated sources and sinks. Secondary forests in contrast were mostly sinks or neutral, but were never sources. By quantifying both the magnitude of biomass changes and the sensitivity of lidar to detect them, this work will help inform the formulation of future space missions focused on biomass dynamics, such as NASA’s Deformation Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice mission.
Regional forest growth rates measured by combining ICESat GLAS and Landsat dataForest canopy heights derived from ICESat Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) lidar data were combined with Landsat-based disturbance history maps to assess forest regeneration rates in three regions of the eastern United States (Maine, Virginia, and Mississippi). GLAS observations were screened for topographic relief and waveform quality, and canopy heights were obtained by visual inspection of each waveform. Regressing the GLAS heights against the age of last disturbance yielded vertical growth rates of 0.6 m/yr (Maine), 1.0 m/yr (Virginia), and 1.2 m/yr (Mississippi). Growth rates, when combined with height-biomass allometric relations, can be converted to estimates of aboveground wood productivity. The study demonstrates that large-footprint lidar data can be used to measure vertical growth rates when averaged spatially, thus providing unique information on forest regeneration for carbon cycle studies.
Forest disturbance and recovery: A general review in the context of spaceborne remote sensing of impacts on aboveground biomass and canopy structureAbrupt forest disturbances generating gaps >0.001 km2 impact roughly 0.4–0.7 million km2 a−1. Fire, windstorms, logging, and shifting cultivation are dominant disturbances; minor contributors are land conversion, flooding, landslides, and avalanches. All can have substantial impacts on canopy biomass and structure. Quantifying disturbance location, extent, severity, and the fate of disturbed biomass will improve carbon budget estimates and lead to better initialization, parameterization, and/or testing of forest carbon cycle models. Spaceborne remote sensing maps large-scale forest disturbance occurrence, location, and extent, particularly with moderate- and fine-scale resolution passive optical/near-infrared (NIR) instruments. High-resolution remote sensing (e.g., ∼1 m passive optical/NIR, or small footprint lidar) can map crown geometry and gaps, but has rarely been systematically applied to study small-scale disturbance and natural mortality gap dynamics over large regions. Reducing uncertainty in disturbance and recovery impacts on global forest carbon balance requires quantification of (1) predisturbance forest biomass; (2) disturbance impact on standing biomass and its fate; and (3) rate of biomass accumulation during recovery. Active remote sensing data (e.g., lidar, radar) are more directly indicative of canopy biomass and many structural properties than passive instrument data; a new generation of instruments designed to generate global coverage/sampling of canopy biomass and structure can improve our ability to quantify the carbon balance of Earth's forests. Generating a high-quality quantitative assessment of disturbance impacts on canopy biomass and structure with spaceborne remote sensing requires comprehensive, well designed, and well coordinated field programs collecting high-quality ground-based data and linkages to dynamical models that can use this information.
Impacts of tropical cyclones on U.S. forest tree mortality and carbon flux from 1851 to 2000Tropical cyclones cause extensive tree mortality and damage to forested ecosystems. A number of patterns in tropical cyclone frequency and intensity have been identified. There exist, however, few studies on the dynamic impacts of historical tropical cyclones at a continental scale. Here, we synthesized field measurements, satellite image analyses, and empirical models to evaluate forest and carbon cycle impacts for historical tropical cyclones from 1851 to 2000 over the continental U.S. Results demonstrated an average of 97 million trees affected each year over the entire United States, with a 53-Tg annual biomass loss, and an average carbon release of 25 Tg y−1. Over the period 1980–1990, released CO2 potentially offset the carbon sink in forest trees by 9–18% over the entire United States. U.S. forests also experienced twice the impact before 1900 than after 1900 because of more active tropical cyclones and a larger extent of forested areas. Forest impacts were primarily located in Gulf Coast areas, particularly southern Texas and Louisiana and south Florida, while significant impacts also occurred in eastern North Carolina. Results serve as an important baseline for evaluating how potential future changes in hurricane frequency and intensity will impact forest tree mortality and carbon balance.
Carbon cycling under 300 years of land use change: Importance of the secondary vegetation sinkWe have developed a dynamic land model (LM3V) able to simulate ecosystem dynamics and exchanges of water, energy, and CO2 between land and atmosphere. LM3V is specifically designed to address the consequences of land use and land management changes including cropland and pasture dynamics, shifting cultivation, logging, fire, and resulting patterns of secondary regrowth. Here we analyze the behavior of LM3V, forced with the output from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) atmospheric model AM2, observed precipitation data, and four historic scenarios of land use change for 1700–2000. Our analysis suggests a net terrestrial carbon source due to land use activities from 1.1 to 1.3 GtC/a during the 1990s, where the range is due to the difference in the historic cropland distribution. This magnitude is substantially smaller than previous estimates from other models, largely due to our estimates of a secondary vegetation sink of 0.35 to 0.6 GtC/a in the 1990s and decelerating agricultural land clearing since the 1960s. For the 1990s, our estimates for the pastures' carbon flux vary from a source of 0.37 to a sink of 0.15 GtC/a, and for the croplands our model shows a carbon source of 0.6 to 0.9 GtC/a. Our process-based model suggests a smaller net deforestation source than earlier bookkeeping models because it accounts for decelerated net conversion of primary forest to agriculture and for stronger secondary vegetation regrowth in tropical regions. The overall uncertainty is likely to be higher than the range reported here because of uncertainty in the biomass recovery under changing ambient conditions, including atmospheric CO2 concentration, nutrients availability, and climate.
Using lidar data and a height-structured ecosystem model to estimate forest carbon stocks and fluxes over mountainous terrainAccurately predicting forest dynamics and associated carbon fluxes requires both knowledge of the current state of the ecosystem and an understanding of the underlying processes and environmental conditions that influence the ecosystem processes. Here, we apply a combination of light detection and ranging (lidar) remote sensing (LVIS), an individual-based height-structured ecosystem model (ED), and detailed topographic and climate data to address these requirements to predict carbon dynamics at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Lidar data provided substantial constraints on model estimates of carbon stocks and annual net ecosystem production (ANEP). Lidar-initialized model estimates of carbon stocks (10.77 kg C m−2) were within 5% of the field estimates over the domain and accounted for the 44% decrease in carbon stocks observed between minimum and maximum elevation at HBEF. Lidar-initialized model estimates of ANEP (0.023 kg C m−2 year−1) also compared favorably with recent field estimates. Model estimates of ANEP strongly depended on fine-scale (1 ha) lidar data on vegetation structure, environmental gradients, and the dynamics of disturbance events. Substituting fine-scale (1 ha) data on vegetation structure and climate with domain-wide inputs increased model estimates of ANEP by 84%. Substituting fine-scale climate data with domain-wide inputs but initializing with fine-scale data on vegetation structure increased estimates of ANEP by 40%. Model simulations initialized with spatial heterogeneity in environmental conditions but that lacked corresponding spatial heterogeneity in vegetation structure were the most problematic because this configuration had serious inconsistencies in areas where the domain mean canopy height exceeded the local potential for vegetation (e.g., at high elevations). Lastly, failing to account for increased natural disturbance rates with elevation increased model estimates of ANEP by 43%. This research demonstrates that the combination of lidar data and a height-structured ecosystem model can be a powerful tool for estimating forest carbon stocks and fluxes, even in complex mountainous environments. To be most useful for constraining model predictions, lidar data need to be at the scale of the underlying environmental heterogeneity that determines plant vital rates.
Clustered disturbances lead to bias in large-scale estimates based on forest sample plotsAssessments from field plots steer much of our current understanding of global change impacts on forest ecosystem structure and function. Recent widespread observations of net carbon accumulation in field plots have suggested that terrestrial ecosystems may be a carbon sink possibly resulting from climate change and/or CO2 fertilization. We hypothesize that field plots may inadequately sample inherently rare mortality events, leading to bias when plot level measurements are scaled up to larger domains. In this study, we constructed a simple computer simulation model of forest dynamics to investigate the effects of disturbance patterns on landscape-scale carbon balance estimates. The model was constructed to be a balanced biosphere at the landscape-scale with a uniform spatial pattern of forest growth rates. Disturbance gap-size distributions across the landscape were modelled with a power-law distribution. Small and frequent disturbances result in a well-mixed heterogeneous forest where even small sample plots represented domain-wide behaviour. However, with disturbances dominated by large and rare events, sample plots as large as 50 ha displayed significant bias towards growth. We suggest that the accuracy of domain level estimates of carbon balance from sample plots are highly sensitive to the distribution of disturbance events across the landscape, and to the number, size and distribution of field plots that comprise the estimate. Assumptions that small clusters of field plots may be representative of domain-wide conditions should only be made very cautiously, and warrant further investigation for verification
The effects of deforestation on the hydrological cycle in Amazonia: a review on scale and resolutionThis paper reviews the effects of deforestation on the hydrological cycle in Amazonia according to recent modeling and observational studies performed within different spatial scales and resolutions. The predictions that follow from future scenarios of a complete deforestation in the region point to a restrained water cycle, while the simulated effects of small, disturbed areas show a contrasting tendency. Differences between coarsely spatially averaged observations and ﬁnely sampled data sets have also been encountered. These contrasts are only partially explained by the different spatial resolutions among models and observations, since they seem to be further associated with the weakening of precipitation recycling under scenarios of extensive deforestation and with the potential intensiﬁcation of convection over areas of land-surface heterogeneity. Therefore, intrinsic and interrelated scale and heterogeneity dependencies on the impact of deforestation in Amazonia on the hydrological cycle are revealed and the acknowledgement of the relevance of these dependencies sets a few challenges for the future.
Hurricane Katrina's Carbon Footprint on U.S. Gulf Coast ForestsHurricane Katrina's impact on U.S. Gulf Coast forests was quantified by linking ecological field studies, Landsat and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image analyses, and empirically based models. Within areas affected by relatively constant wind speed, tree mortality and damage exhibited strong species-controlled gradients. Spatially explicit forest disturbance maps coupled with extrapolation models predicted mortality and severe structural damage to ~320 million large trees totaling 105 teragrams of carbon, representing 50 to 140% of the net annual U.S. forest tree carbon sink. Changes in disturbance regimes from increased storm activity expected under a warming climate will reduce forest biomass stocks, increase ecosystem respiration, and may represent an important positive feedback mechanism to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The Tension between Fire Risk and Carbon Storage: Evaluating U.S. Carbon and Fire Management Strategies through Ecosystem ModelsFire risk and carbon storage are related environmental issues because fire reduction results in carbon storage through the buildup of woody vegetation, and stored carbon is a fuel for fires. The sustainability of the U.S. carbon sink and the extent of fire activity in the next 100 yr depend in part on the type and effectiveness of fire reduction employed. Previous studies have bracketed the range of dynamics from continued fire reduction to the complete failure of fire reduction activities. To improve these estimates, it is necessary to explicitly account for fire reduction in terrestrial models. A new fire reduction submodel that estimates the spatiotemporal pattern of reduction across the United States was developed using gridded data on biomass, climate, land-use, population, and economic factors. To the authors’ knowledge, it is the first large-scale, gridded fire model that explicitly accounts for fire reduction. The model was calibrated to 1° × 1° burned area statistics [Global Burnt Area 2000 Project (GBA-2000)] and compared favorably to three important diagnostics. The model was then implemented in a spatially explicit ecosystem model and used to analyze 1620 scenarios of future fire risk and fire reduction strategies. Under scenarios of climate change and urbanization, burned area and carbon emissions both increased in scenarios where fire reduction efforts were not adjusted to match new patterns of fire risk. Fuel reducing management strategies reduced burned area and fire risk, but also limited carbon storage. These results suggest that to promote carbon storage and minimize fire risk in the future, fire reduction efforts will need to be increased and spatially adjusted and will need to employ a mixture of fuel-reducing and non-fuel-reducing strategies.
The contributions of land-use change, CO2 fertilization, and climate variability to the Eastern US carbon sinkAtmospheric measurements and land-based inventories imply that terrestrial ecosystems in the northern hemisphere are taking up signiﬁcant amounts of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; however, there is considerable disagreement about the causes of this uptake, and its expected future trajectory. In this paper, we use the ecosystem demography (ED) model to quantify the contributions of disturbance history, CO2 fertilization and climate variability to the past, current, and future terrestrial carbon ﬂuxes in the Eastern United States. The simulations indicate that forest regrowth following agricultural abandonment accounts for uptake of 0.11 Pg C yr-1 in the 1980s and 0.15 Pg C yr-1 in the 1990s, and regrowth following forest harvesting accounts for an additional 0.1 Pg C yr-1 of uptake during both these decades. The addition of CO2 fertilization into the model simulations increases carbon uptake rates to 0.38 Pg C yr-1 in the 1980s and 0.47 Pg C yr-1 in the 1990s. Comparisons of predicted aboveground carbon uptake to regional-scale forest inventory measurements indicate that the model’s predictions in the absence of CO2 fertilization are 14% lower than observed, while in the presence of CO2 fertilization, predicted uptake rates are 28% larger than observed. Comparable results are obtained from comparisons of predicted total Net Ecosystem Productivity to the carbon ﬂuxes observed at the Harvard Forest ﬂux tower site and in model simulations free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments. These results imply that disturbance history is the principal mechanism responsible for current carbon uptake in the Eastern United States, and that conventional biogeochemical formulations of plant growth overestimate the response of plants to rising CO2 levels. Model projections out to 2100 imply that the carbon uptake arising from forest regrowth will increasingly be dominated by forest regrowth following harvesting. Consequently, actual carbon storage declines to near zero by the end of the 21st century as the forest regrowth that has occurred since agricultural abandonment comes into equilibrium with the landscape’s new disturbance regime. Incorporating interannual climate variability into the model simulations gives rise to large interannual variation in regional carbon ﬂuxes, indicating that long-term measurements are necessary to detect the signature of processes that give rise to long-term uptake and storage.
Broadening students horizons: the development, delivery, and assessment of a new course in Earth System Science.Earth System Science is an exceptionally interdisciplinary field requiring knowledge and skills from multiple scientific disciplines. Many important questions lie at the intersection of traditional disciplines and require a systems level approach. The emerging educational challenge is to train the next generation of scientists to address these topics. Here, we describe the development, delivery, and assessment of a new course in Earth System Science designed for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students. The course was designed to meet specific learning objectives, delivered in an inquiry-based learning environment, and assessed to determine the extent to which the learning objectives had been attained. The course consisted of readings from both texts and primary literature, lectures by UNH professors and NASA scientists, computer modeling labs, and interdisciplinary student-team research projects. Results emphasize the importance of pre-planning and resources, establishing clear and concise student learning objectives, creating of an inquiry-based learning centered environment, role-modeling how Earth System Science research is done, and meeting student demand and institutional challenges. This class can serve as a model course for upper level undergraduates and beginning graduate students to expand their disciplinary scope, skills, and readiness to address Earth System Science questions.
A water balance model to study the hydrological response to different scenarios of deforestation in Amazonia
Amazonia encloses some of the largest watersheds in the world, experiencing substantial amounts of rainfall annually and producing more runoff to the ocean than any other region. Amazonia experiences one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and the hydrological effects of such a disturbance have already been investigated by several studies. Contrasting results exist, especially when different scales and degrees of heterogeneity are considered. This paper assesses the dependency of the hydrological impact of deforestation on these factors through application of a gridded water balance model. The model simulates different scenarios of deforestation based on straightforward water balance calculations. In all experiments performed, the scenarios conform to observations of decreased evapotranspiration within disturbed sites. Initially, by implying an uncoupling between small deforested áreas and circulation, the model suggests an increase in runoff locally. However, when the land-atmosphere coupling caused by intermediate levels of deforestation is reproduced through deviations on circulation, the model confirms that the water cycle may or may not become regionally accelerated, depending on the degree of heterogeneity associated. Finally, by simulating a scenario of complete deforestation, the model confirms expectations of a less intense water cycle in Amazonia. Due to the broad range of numerical models and observation networks currently available, the importance of the proper representation of both scale and heterogeneity of deforestation to the correct assessment of its hydrological effects is emphasized.
Despite our model results, there is need for more mechanistic studies on coupled land-surface and atmosphere interactions under varying conditions.