Seeking potential contributions to future carbon budget in conterminous US forests considering disturbances
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Theoretical and Applied Climatology
Currently, US forests constitute a large carbon sink, comprising about 9 % of the global terrestrial carbon sink. Wildfire is the most significant disturbance influencing carbon dynamics in US forests. Our objective is to estimate impacts of climate change, CO2 concentration, and nitrogen deposition on the future net biome productivity (NBP) of US forests until the end of twenty-first century under a range of disturbance conditions. We designate three forest disturbance scenarios under one future climate scenario to evaluate factor impacts for the future period (2011–2100): (1) no wildfires occur but forests continue to age (Saging), (2) no wildfires occur and forest ages are fixed in 2010 (Sfixed_nodis), and (3) wildfires occur according to a historical pattern, consequently changing forest age (Sdis_age_change). Results indicate that US forests remain a large carbon sink in the late twenty-first century under the Sfixed_nodis scenario; however, they become a carbon source under the Saging and Sdis_age_change scenarios. During the period of 2011 to 2100, climate is projected to have a small direct effect on NBP, while atmospheric CO2 concentration and nitrogen deposition have large positive effects on NBP regardless of the future climate and disturbance scenarios. Meanwhile, responses to past disturbances under the Sfixed_nodis scenario increase NBP regardless of the future climate scenarios. Although disturbance effects on NBP under the Saging and Sdis_age_change scenarios decrease with time, both scenarios experience an increase in NBP prior to the 2050s and then a decrease in NBP until the end of the twenty-first century. This study indicates that there is potential to increase or at least maintain the carbon sink of conterminousUS forests at the current level if future wildfires are reduced and age structures are maintained at a productive mix. The effects of CO2 on the future carbon sink may overwhelm effects of other factors at the end of the twenty-first century. Although our model in conjunction with multiple disturbance scenarios may not reflect the true conditions of future forests, it provides a range of potential conditions as well as a useful guide to both current and future forest carbon management.
Zhang, Fangmin; Pan, Yude; Birdsey, Richard A.; Chen, Jing M.; Dugan, Alexa. 2017. Seeking potential contributions to future carbon budget in conterminous US forests considering disturbances. Theoretical and Applied Climatology. 130(3-4): 971-978. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-016-1936-1.