Alaska EPSCoR Data Portal
Interacting disturbances and their effect on carbon, charcoal, and further implications for carbon sequestration in forests
Disturbances have a strong role in the carbon balance of many ecosystems, and the cycle of vegetation growth, disturbance, and recovery is very important in determining the net carbon balance of terrestrial biomes. Compound disturbances are phenomena of growing concern which can impact ecosystems in novel ways, altering disturbance intensity, severity, and recovery trajectories. This research focuses on carbon stocks in a compound disturbance environment, with special attention on black carbon (charcoal), a potential source of long term carbon sequestration. We report on a well studied compound disturbance event (wind, logging, and severe fire) in a Colorado, USA sub alpine forest that was extensively surveyed for impacts on carbon, black carbon, and regeneration. All major pools were considered, including organic and mineral soil (10 cm depth), and contrasted with neighboring undisturbed forests as a reference. The disturbances had an additive effect on carbon loss, with increasing numbers of disturbances resulting in progressively decreasing carbon/black carbon stocks. This resulted from lower substrate availability and higher fire intensity. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference between reference and burned plots in terms of total black carbon. It appears that high-intensity fires do not significantly increase net black carbon in these forests (over the entire fire-return interval), with additional disturbances potentially resulting in a net loss. Disturbances, and their interactions, will have long lasting legacies for carbon and black carbon.
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