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AGU 2017 Oral Presentation by Lisa Welp: Investigating the role of evergreen and deciduous forests in the increasing trend in atmospheric CO2 seasonal amplitude

Center for the Environment
December 13, 2017
10:20 AM - 10:35 AM
New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - 383-385


The seasonal amplitude of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric CO2 concentrations has systematically increased over the last several decades, indicating that the timing and amplitude of net CO2 uptake and release by northern terrestrial ecosystems has changed substantially. Remote sensing, dynamic vegetation modeling, and in-situ studies have explored how changes in phenology, expansion of woody vegetation, and changes in species composition and disturbance regimes, among others, are driven by changes in climate and CO2. Despite these efforts, ecosystem models have not been able to reproduce observed atmospheric CO2 changes. Furthermore, the implications for the source/sink balance of northern ecosystems remains unclear.

Changing proportions of evergreen and deciduous tree cover in response to climate change could be one of the key mechanisms that have given rise to amplified atmospheric CO2 seasonality. These two different plant functional types (PFTs) have different carbon uptake seasonal patterns and also different sensitivities to climate change, but are often lumped together as one forest type in global ecosystem models.

We will demonstrate the potential that shifting distributions of evergreen and deciduous forests can have on the amplitude of atmospheric CO2. We will show phase differences in the net CO2 seasonal uptake using CO2 flux data from paired evergreen/deciduous eddy covariance towers. We will use simulations of evergreen and deciduous PFTs from the LPJ dynamic vegetation model to explore how climate change may influence the abundance and CO2 fluxes of each. Model results show that the area of deciduous forests is predicted to have increased, and the seasonal amplitude of CO2 fluxes has increased as well. The impact of surface flux seasonal variability on atmospheric CO2 amplitude is examined by transporting fluxes from each forest PFT through the TM3 transport model. The timing of the most intense CO2 uptake leads to an enhanced effect of deciduous forests on the atmospheric CO2amplitude. These results demonstrate the potential significance of evergreen/deciduous forest PFTs on the amplitude of atmospheric CO2. In order to better understand the causes of the increasing amplitude trend, we encourage creating time-varying maps of evergreen/deciduous PFTs from remote sensing observations.

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