Modeling forest carbon cycle response to tree mortality: Effects of plant functional type and disturbance intensity

TitleModeling forest carbon cycle response to tree mortality: Effects of plant functional type and disturbance intensity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsFrasson RPrata de M, Bohrer G, Medvigy D, Matheny AM, Morin TH, Vogel CS, Gough CM, Maurer KD, Curtis PS
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Paginationn/a - n/a
Date Published2015
Type of ArticlePI

Natural and anthropogenic disturbances influence ecological succession and impact the carbon cycle. Understanding disturbance effects and ecosystem recovery is essential to carbon modeling. We hypothesized that (1) species-specific disturbances impact the carbon cycle differently from nonspecific disturbances. In particular, disturbances that target early-successional species will lead to higher carbon uptake by the postrecovery, middle- and late-successional community and (2) disturbances that affect the midsuccessional deciduous species have more intense and long-lasting impacts on carbon uptake than disturbances of similar intensity that only affect the early-successional species. To test these hypotheses, we employed a series of simulations conducted with the Ecosystem Demography model version 2 to evaluate the sensitivity of a temperate mixed-deciduous forest to disturbance intensity and type. Our simulation scenarios included a control (undisturbed) case, a uniform disturbance case where we removed 30% of all trees regardless of their successional status, five cases where only early-successional deciduous trees were removed with increasing disturbance intensity (30%, 70%, 85%, and 100%), and four cases of midsuccessional disturbances with increasing intensity (70%, 85%, and 100%). Our results indicate that disturbances affecting the midsuccessional deciduous trees led to larger decreases in carbon uptake as well as longer recovery times when compared to disturbances that exclusively targeted the early-successional deciduous trees at comparable intensities. Moreover, disturbances affecting 30% to 100% of early-successional deciduous trees resulted in an increased carbon uptake, beginning 6 years after the disturbance and sustained through the end of the 100 year simulation.