The Impact of Disturbance on Carbon Stores and Dynamics in Forests of Coastal Alaska Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/sq87bw81b

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  • Changes in climate caused by increased concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the Earth’s atmosphere have led land and ocean surface temperatures to increase by 0.85°C and sea level to increase by 19 cm relative to preindustrial times. Global climate change will lead to further alterations in mean temperature and precipitation, as well as their extremes that are likely to influence disturbance regimes. Disturbance play an important role in forest dynamics and succession, by influencing forest ecosystems structure and function, reorganizing forests by reducing live and increasing dead matter, and thus affecting ecosystem carbon (C) balances. Under a changing climate disturbances are likely to cause widespread tree mortality across forested landscapes, creating vast amounts of coarse woody debris (CWD) that will emit C to the atmosphere to a degree that regional C balances and future C dynamics are likely to change. C balance of forested regions depends on inputs in form of C sequestered by live components during growth and outputs in form of C emitted from dead components through decomposition and combustion. Live trees in many forest ecosystems represent the largest aboveground C pool and the dynamics of this pool, as controlled by growth and mortality, have been extensively studied. In contrast, few have examined either the post-disturbance fate of CWD C or assessed C storage potential of salvaged biomass despite the occurrence of multiple recent large-scale disturbance events. Biomass and C stores and their uncertainty were estimated in the Temperate and the Boreal ecoregions of Coastal Alaska using the empirical data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, literature data, and modeling using standard methods employed by the FIA program. The average aboveground woody live (218.9±4.6 Mg/ha) and log (28.1±1.8 Mg/ha) biomass in the Temperate ecoregion were among the lowest in the Pacific Northwest, whereas snag biomass (30.5±1.0 Mg/ha) was among the highest. In the Boreal ecoregion, CWD biomass comprised almost 50% of the regional aboveground woody store (76.7±3.8 Mg/ha) with bark beetle damaged stands containing 82% of the total CWD biomass. In contrast, in the Temperate ecoregion, CWD comprised 20% of the regional aboveground woody store (277.5 ±5.4 Mg/ha) with 76% of total CWD biomass in undisturbed stands. Total C stores estimates in Coastal Alaska ranged between 1523.6 and 1892.8 Tg with the highest contribution from soils and the largest potential reductions in uncertainty related to the tree and soils C pools. The impact of a large-scale spruce bark beetle (SBB) outbreak on aboveground dead wood C dynamics on the Kenai Peninsula was modeled utilizing data from the FIA program and CWD decomposition rate-constants from a chronosequence and decomposition-vectors analysis. Decomposition rate-constants from the chronosequence ranged between -0.015 yr⁻¹ and -0.022 yr⁻¹ for logs and -0.003 yr⁻¹ and +0.002 yr⁻¹ for snags. Decomposition rate-constants from the decomposition-vectors ranged between -0.045 yr⁻¹ and +0.003 yr⁻¹ among decomposition phases and -0.048 yr⁻¹ and +0.006 yr⁻¹ among decay classes. Relative to log generating disturbances those creating snags delayed C flux from CWD to the atmosphere, produced a smaller magnitude C flux, and had the potential to store 10% to 66% more C in a disturbed system over time. The effect of several management strategies ranging from "leave-as-is" to "salvage-and-utilization" on C stores and emissions following SBB outbreak on Kenai Peninsula, Alaska was evaluated. A forest with immediate post-disturbance regeneration reached pre-disturbance C stores faster than one with delayed regeneration. Lack of regeneration, representing a loss of tree cover on the disturbed portion of the landscape, caused a permanent decrease in wood C stores. Among the "salvage-and-utilization" scenarios considered, biomass fuel production with substitution for fossil fuels created the largest long-term C storage assuming the substitution was permanent. Given that reduction in near-term emissions may be a more robust strategy than long-term ones, the "leave-as-is" scenarios may represent the most feasible way to mitigate global climate change following disturbance.
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