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Journal ArticleDOI

Earlier springs decrease peak summer productivity in North American boreal forests

01 Jun 2013-Environmental Research Letters (Institute of Physics)-Vol. 8, Iss: 2, pp 024027

AbstractIn the northern high latitudes, alternative hypotheses with regards to how warming-related shifts in seasonality influence ecosystem productivity exist. Increased plant growth associated with a longer growing season may enhance ecosystem productivity, but shifts to earlier springs may also negatively influence soil moisture status and productivity during the peak of the growing season. Here, we analyzed nearly three decades (1982?2008) of observational records and derived products, including satellite microwave and optical imagery as well as upscaled ecosystem flux observations, to better understand how shifts in seasonality impact hydrology and productivity in the North American boreal forests. We identified a dominant adverse influence of earlier springs on peak summer forest greenness, actual evapotranspiration and productivity at interannual time scales across the drier western and central sections of the North American boreal forests. In the vast regions where this spring onset mechanism operates, ecosystem productivity gains from earlier springs during the early portion of the growing season are effectively cancelled through corresponding losses in the later portion. Our results also indicate that recent decadal shifts towards earlier springs and associated drying in the midst of the growing season over western North American boreal forests may have contributed to the reported declines in summer productivity and increases in tree mortality and fire activity. With projections of accelerated northern high-latitude warming and associated shifts to earlier springs, persistent soil moisture deficits in peak summer may be an effective mechanism for regional-scale boreal forest dieback through their strong influence on productivity, tree mortality and disturbance dynamics.

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Citations
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01 Dec 2012
Abstract: We upscaled FLUXNET observations of carbon dioxide, water, and energy fluxes to the global scale using the machine learning technique, model tree ensembles (MTE). We trained MTE to predict site-level gross primary productivity (GPP), terrestrial ecosystem respiration (TER), net ecosystem exchange (NEE), latent energy (LE), and sensible heat (H) based on remote sensing indices, climate and meteorological data, and information on land use. We applied the trained MTEs to generate global flux fields at a 0.5 degrees x 0.5 degrees spatial resolution and a monthly temporal resolution from 1982 to 2008. Cross-validation analyses revealed good performance of MTE in predicting among-site flux variability with modeling efficiencies (MEf) between 0.64 and 0.84, except for NEE (MEf = 0.32). Performance was also good for predicting seasonal patterns (MEf between 0.84 and 0.89, except for NEE (0.64)). By comparison, predictions of monthly anomalies were not as strong (MEf between 0.29 and 0.52). Improved accounting of disturbance and lagged environmental effects, along with improved characterization of errors in the training data set, would contribute most to further reducing uncertainties. Our global estimates of LE (158 +/- 7 J x 10(18) yr(-1)), H (164 +/- 15 J x 10(18) yr(-1)), and GPP (119 +/- 6 Pg C yr(-1)) were similar to independent estimates. Our global TER estimate (96 +/- 6 Pg C yr(-1)) was likely underestimated by 5-10%. Hot spot regions of interannual variability in carbon fluxes occurred in semiarid to semihumid regions and were controlled by moisture supply. Overall, GPP was more important to interannual variability in NEE than TER. Our empirically derived fluxes may be used for calibration and evaluation of land surface process models and for exploratory and diagnostic assessments of the biosphere.

857 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The timing of life-history events has a strong impact on ecosystems. Now, analysis of the phenology of temperate forests in the eastern US indicates that in the case of an earlier spring and a later autumn, carbon uptake (photosynthesis) increases considerably more than carbon release (respiration).

434 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: It is suggested that future studies should primarily focus on using new observation tools to improve the understanding of tropical plant phenology, on improving process-based phenology modeling, and on the scaling of phenology from species to landscape-level.
Abstract: Plant phenology, the annually recurring sequence of plant developmental stages, is important for plant functioning and ecosystem services and their biophysical and biogeochemical feedbacks to the climate system. Plant phenology depends on temperature, and the current rapid climate change has revived interest in understanding and modeling the responses of plant phenology to the warming trend and the consequences thereof for ecosystems. Here, we review recent progresses in plant phenology and its interactions with climate change. Focusing on the start (leaf unfolding) and end (leaf coloring) of plant growing seasons, we show that the recent rapid expansion in ground- and remote sensing- based phenology data acquisition has been highly beneficial and has supported major advances in plant phenology research. Studies using multiple data sources and methods generally agree on the trends of advanced leaf unfolding and delayed leaf coloring due to climate change, yet these trends appear to have decelerated or even reversed in recent years. Our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the plant phenology responses to climate warming is still limited. The interactions between multiple drivers complicate the modeling and prediction of plant phenology changes. Furthermore, changes in plant phenology have important implications for ecosystem carbon cycles and ecosystem feedbacks to climate, yet the quantification of such impacts remains challenging. We suggest that future studies should primarily focus on using new observation tools to improve the understanding of tropical plant phenology, on improving process-based phenology modeling, and on the scaling of phenology from species to landscape-level.

302 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: How day length may limit the ability of tree species to respond to climate warming in situ is discussed, focusing on the implications of photoperiodic sensing for extending the growing season and affecting plant phenology and growth.
Abstract: Increasing temperatures should facilitate the poleward movement of species distributions through a variety of processes, including increasing the growing season length. However, in temperate and boreal latitudes, temperature is not the only cue used by trees to determine seasonality, as changes in photoperiod provide a more consistent, reliable annual signal of seasonality than temperature. Here, we discuss how day length may limit the ability of tree species to respond to climate warming in situ, focusing on the implications of photoperiodic sensing for extending the growing season and affecting plant phenology and growth, as well as the potential role of photoperiod in controlling carbon uptake and water fluxes in forests. We also review whether there are patterns across plant functional types (based on successional strategy, xylem anatomy and leaf morphology) in their sensitivity to photoperiod that we can use to predict which species or groups might be more successful in migrating as the climate warms, or may be more successfully used for forestry and agriculture through assisted migration schemes.

194 citations


Cites background from "Earlier springs decrease peak summe..."

  • ...While this may occur in some sites (especially in the short term), elevated temperatures, especially when coupled with water limitations, have already been associated with reductions in tree growth and increases in tree mortality in boreal forests (Peng et al. 2011; Buermann et al. 2013)....

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References
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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Greenhouse gas emissions have significantly altered global climate, and will continue to do so in the future. Increases in the frequency, duration, and/or severity of drought and heat stress associated with climate change could fundamentally alter the composition, structure, and biogeography of forests in many regions. Of particular concern are potential increases in tree mortality associated with climate-induced physiological stress and interactions with other climate-mediated processes such as insect outbreaks and wildfire. Despite this risk, existing projections of tree mortality are based on models that lack functionally realistic mortality mechanisms, and there has been no attempt to track observations of climate-driven tree mortality globally. Here we present the first global assessment of recent tree mortality attributed to drought and heat stress. Although episodic mortality occurs in the absence of climate change, studies compiled here suggest that at least some of the world's forested ecosystems already may be responding to climate change and raise concern that forests may become increasingly vulnerable to higher background tree mortality rates and die-off in response to future warming and drought, even in environments that are not normally considered water-limited. This further suggests risks to ecosystem services, including the loss of sequestered forest carbon and associated atmospheric feedbacks. Our review also identifies key information gaps and scientific uncertainties that currently hinder our ability to predict tree mortality in response to climate change and emphasizes the need for a globally coordinated observation system. Overall, our review reveals the potential for amplified tree mortality due to drought and heat in forests worldwide.

4,950 citations


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