skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Shifts in biomass and productivity for a subtropical dry forest in response to simulated elevated hurricane disturbances

Abstract

Caribbean tropical forests are subject to hurricane disturbances of great variability. In addition to natural storm incongruity, climate change can alter storm formation, duration, frequency, and intensity. This model -based investigation assessed the impacts of multiple storms of different intensities and occurrence frequencies on the long-term dynamics of subtropical dry forests in Puerto Rico. Using the previously validated individual-based gap model ZELIG-TROP, we developed a new hurricane damage routine and parameterized it with site- and species-specific hurricane effects. A baseline case with the reconstructed historical hurricane regime represented the control condition. Ten treatment cases, reflecting plausible shifts in hurricane regimes, manipulated both hurricane return time (i.e. frequency) and hurricane intensity. The treatment-related change in carbon storage and fluxes were reported as changes in aboveground forest biomass (AGB), net primary productivity (NPP), and in the aboveground carbon partitioning components, or annual carbon accumulation (ACA). Increasing the frequency of hurricanes decreased aboveground biomass by between 5% and 39%, and increased NPP between 32% and 50%. Decadal-scale biomass fluctuations were damped relative to the control. In contrast, increasing hurricane intensity did not create a large shift in the long-term average forest structure, NPP, or ACA from that of historical hurricane regimes, but producedmore » large fluctuations in biomass. Decreasing both the hurricane intensity and frequency by 50% produced the highest values of biomass and NPP. For the control scenario and with increased hurricane intensity, ACA was negative, which indicated that the aboveground forest components acted as a carbon source. However, with an increase in the frequency of storms or decreased storms, the total ACA was positive due to shifts in leaf production, annual litterfall, and coarse woody debris inputs, indicating a carbon sink into the forest over the long-term. The carbon loss from each hurricane event, in all scenarios, always recovered over sufficient time. Our results suggest that subtropical dry forests will remain resilient to hurricane disturbance. However carbon stocks will decrease if future climates increase hurricane frequency by 50% or more.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4]
  1. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  2. Clemson Univ., SC (United States)
  3. Laurentian Forestry Centre, Quebec, QC (Canada)
  4. Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1342805
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1408416
Grant/Contract Number:
AC02-05CH11231
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Published Article
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 12; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 1748-9326
Publisher:
IOP Publishing
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Holm, Jennifer A., Van Bloem, Skip J., Larocque, Guy R., and Shugart, Herman H. Shifts in biomass and productivity for a subtropical dry forest in response to simulated elevated hurricane disturbances. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa583c.
Holm, Jennifer A., Van Bloem, Skip J., Larocque, Guy R., & Shugart, Herman H. Shifts in biomass and productivity for a subtropical dry forest in response to simulated elevated hurricane disturbances. United States. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa583c.
Holm, Jennifer A., Van Bloem, Skip J., Larocque, Guy R., and Shugart, Herman H. Tue . "Shifts in biomass and productivity for a subtropical dry forest in response to simulated elevated hurricane disturbances". United States. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa583c.
@article{osti_1342805,
title = {Shifts in biomass and productivity for a subtropical dry forest in response to simulated elevated hurricane disturbances},
author = {Holm, Jennifer A. and Van Bloem, Skip J. and Larocque, Guy R. and Shugart, Herman H.},
abstractNote = {Caribbean tropical forests are subject to hurricane disturbances of great variability. In addition to natural storm incongruity, climate change can alter storm formation, duration, frequency, and intensity. This model -based investigation assessed the impacts of multiple storms of different intensities and occurrence frequencies on the long-term dynamics of subtropical dry forests in Puerto Rico. Using the previously validated individual-based gap model ZELIG-TROP, we developed a new hurricane damage routine and parameterized it with site- and species-specific hurricane effects. A baseline case with the reconstructed historical hurricane regime represented the control condition. Ten treatment cases, reflecting plausible shifts in hurricane regimes, manipulated both hurricane return time (i.e. frequency) and hurricane intensity. The treatment-related change in carbon storage and fluxes were reported as changes in aboveground forest biomass (AGB), net primary productivity (NPP), and in the aboveground carbon partitioning components, or annual carbon accumulation (ACA). Increasing the frequency of hurricanes decreased aboveground biomass by between 5% and 39%, and increased NPP between 32% and 50%. Decadal-scale biomass fluctuations were damped relative to the control. In contrast, increasing hurricane intensity did not create a large shift in the long-term average forest structure, NPP, or ACA from that of historical hurricane regimes, but produced large fluctuations in biomass. Decreasing both the hurricane intensity and frequency by 50% produced the highest values of biomass and NPP. For the control scenario and with increased hurricane intensity, ACA was negative, which indicated that the aboveground forest components acted as a carbon source. However, with an increase in the frequency of storms or decreased storms, the total ACA was positive due to shifts in leaf production, annual litterfall, and coarse woody debris inputs, indicating a carbon sink into the forest over the long-term. The carbon loss from each hurricane event, in all scenarios, always recovered over sufficient time. Our results suggest that subtropical dry forests will remain resilient to hurricane disturbance. However carbon stocks will decrease if future climates increase hurricane frequency by 50% or more.},
doi = {10.1088/1748-9326/aa583c},
journal = {Environmental Research Letters},
number = 2,
volume = 12,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Feb 07 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Tue Feb 07 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record at 10.1088/1748-9326/aa583c

Save / Share:
  • Caribbean tropical forests are subject to hurricane disturbances of great variability. In addition to natural storm incongruity, climate change can alter storm formation, duration, frequency, and intensity. This model -based investigation assessed the impacts of multiple storms of different intensities and occurrence frequencies on the long-term dynamics of subtropical dry forests in Puerto Rico. Using the previously validated individual-based gap model ZELIG-TROP, we developed a new hurricane damage routine and parameterized it with site- and species-specific hurricane effects. A baseline case with the reconstructed historical hurricane regime represented the control condition. Ten treatment cases, reflecting plausible shifts in hurricane regimes,more » manipulated both hurricane return time (i.e. frequency) and hurricane intensity. The treatment-related change in carbon storage and fluxes were reported as changes in aboveground forest biomass (AGB), net primary productivity (NPP), and in the aboveground carbon partitioning components, or annual carbon accumulation (ACA). Increasing the frequency of hurricanes decreased aboveground biomass by between 5% and 39%, and increased NPP between 32% and 50%. Decadal-scale biomass fluctuations were damped relative to the control. In contrast, increasing hurricane intensity did not create a large shift in the long-term average forest structure, NPP, or ACA from that of historical hurricane regimes, but produced large fluctuations in biomass. Decreasing both the hurricane intensity and frequency by 50% produced the highest values of biomass and NPP. For the control scenario and with increased hurricane intensity, ACA was negative, which indicated that the aboveground forest components acted as a carbon source. However, with an increase in the frequency of storms or decreased storms, the total ACA was positive due to shifts in leaf production, annual litterfall, and coarse woody debris inputs, indicating a carbon sink into the forest over the long-term. The carbon loss from each hurricane event, in all scenarios, always recovered over sufficient time. Our results suggest that subtropical dry forests will remain resilient to hurricane disturbance. However carbon stocks will decrease if future climates increase hurricane frequency by 50% or more.« less
  • Climate change predictions derived from coupled carbon-climate models are highly dependent on assumptions about feedbacks between the biosphere and atmosphere. One critical feedback occurs if C uptake by the biosphere increases in response to the fossil-fuel driven increase in atmospheric [CO2] ('CO2 fertilization'), thereby slowing the rate of increase in atmospheric [CO2]. Carbon exchanges between the terrestrial biosphere and atmosphere are often first represented in models as net primary productivity (NPP). However, the contribution of CO2 fertilization to the future global C cycle has been uncertain, especially in forest ecosystems that dominate global NPP, and models that include a feedbackmore » between terrestrial biosphere metabolism and atmospheric [CO2] are poorly constrained by experimental evidence. We analyzed the response of NPP to elevated CO2 ({approx}550 ppm) in four free-air CO2 enrichment experiments in forest stands. We show that the response of forest NPP to elevated [CO2] is highly conserved across a broad range of productivity, with a stimulation at the median of 23 {+-} 2%. At low leaf area indices, a large portion of the response was attributable to increased light absorption, but as leaf area indices increased, the response to elevated [CO2] was wholly caused by increased light-use efficiency. The surprising consistency of response across diverse sites provides a benchmark to evaluate predictions of ecosystem and global models and allows us now to focus on unresolved questions about carbon partitioning and retention, and spatial variation in NPP response caused by availability of other growth limiting resources.« less
  • Climate change predictions derived from coupled carbon-climate models are highly dependent on assumptions about feedbacks between the biosphere and atmosphere. One critical feedback occurs if C uptake by the biosphere increases in response to the fossil-fuel driven increase in atmospheric [CO{sub 2}] ('CO{sub 2} fertilization'), thereby slowing the rate of increase in atmospheric [CO{sub 2}]. Carbon exchanges between the terrestrial biosphere and atmosphere are often first represented in models as net primary productivity (NPP). However, the contribution of CO{sub 2} fertilization to the future global C cycle has been uncertain, especially in forest ecosystems that dominate global NPP, and modelsmore » that include a feedback between terrestrial biosphere metabolism and atmospheric [CO{sub 2}] are poorly constrained by experimental evidence. We analyzed the response of NPP to elevated CO{sub 2} ({approx}550 ppm) in four free-air CO{sub 2} enrichment experiments in forest stands. We show that the response of forest NPP to elevated [CO{sub 2}] is highly conserved across a broad range of productivity, with a stimulation at the median of 23 {+-} 2%. At low leaf area indices, a large portion of the response was attributable to increased light absorption, but as leaf area indices increased, the response to elevated [CO{sub 2}] was wholly caused by increased light-use efficiency. The surprising consistency of response across diverse sites provides a benchmark to evaluate predictions of ecosystem and global models and allows us now to focus on unresolved questions about carbon partitioning and retention, and spatial variation in NPP response caused by availability of other growth limiting resources.« less
  • Forest ecosystems are important sinks for rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2. In a previous data synthesis of four forest FACE experiments (1), forest net primary production (NPP) increased by 23 2% when the forests were grown under atmospheric concentrations of CO2 predicted for the latter half of this century. Because nitrogen (N) availability commonly limits forest productivity, more N must be taken up from the soil and/or the N already assimilated by trees must be used more efficiently to support high rates of forest productivity under elevated CO2. Biogeochemical models predict that increases in forest NPP under elevated CO2 inmore » N-limited ecosystems result in a significant increase in N-use efficiency (NUE), and that additional uptake of N by trees under elevated CO2 is only possible in ecosystems where N is not limiting. Here, experimental evidence demonstrates that patterns of N uptake and NUE under elevated CO2 differed from that predicted by biogeochemical models. The uptake of N increased under elevated CO2 at the Rhinelander, Duke and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) FACE sites, yet fertilization studies at the Duke and ORNL FACE sites showed that tree growth and forest NPP were strongly limited by N availability. By contrast, NUE increased under elevated CO2 only at the POP-EUROFACE site where fertilization studies showed that N was not limiting to tree growth. In reviewing data from the forest FACE experiments, we suggest that some combination of increasing fine root production, increased rates of soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition, and increased allocation of carbon (C) to mycorrhizal fungi is likely to account for greater N uptake under elevated CO2 at the forest FACE sites. To accurately forecast the response of forest ecosystems to rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2, biogeochemical models must be reformulated to allow C transfers belowground that result in additional N uptake under elevated CO2.« less