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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Geography

UC Berkeley


For more than a century, the Geography Department at Berkeley has been a leading center of scholarship about earth’s landscapes and human relationships to the environment. Our inquiries encompass a wide range of topics, from the economies and cultures of cities and built landscapes, to tropical climates and the flow of polar ice sheets. We combine rigorous empirical work with deeply conceptual theoretical analyses, always recognizing the importance of both spatial processes and accumulated histories. We use geographic analyses to illuminate the abiding problems of the modern world.

Department of Geography

There are 269 publications in this collection, published between 1999 and 2023.
Open Access Policy Deposits (173)

Integration of C1 and C2 Metabolism in Trees

C₁ metabolism in plants is known to be involved in photorespiration, nitrogen and amino acid metabolism, as well as methylation and biosynthesis of metabolites and biopolymers. Although the flux of carbon through the C₁ pathway is thought to be large, its intermediates are difficult to measure and relatively little is known about this potentially ubiquitous pathway. In this study, we evaluated the C₁ pathway and its integration with the central metabolism using aqueous solutions of 13C-labeled C₁ and C₂ intermediates delivered to branches of the tropical species Inga edulis via the transpiration stream. Delivery of [13C]methanol and [13C]formaldehyde rapidly stimulated leaf emissions of [13C]methanol, [13C]formaldehyde, [13C]formic acid, and 13CO₂, confirming the existence of the C1 pathway and rapid interconversion between methanol and formaldehyde. However, while [13C]formate solutions stimulated emissions of 13CO₂, emissions of [13C]methanol or [13C]formaldehyde were not detected, suggesting that once oxidation to formate occurs it is rapidly oxidized to CO₂ within chloroplasts. 13C-labeling of isoprene, a known photosynthetic product, was linearly related to 13CO₂ across C₁ and C₂ ([13C₂]acetate and [2-13C]glycine) substrates, consistent with reassimilation of C₁, respiratory, and photorespiratory CO₂. Moreover, [13C]methanol and [13C]formaldehyde induced a quantitative labeling of both carbon atoms of acetic acid emissions, possibly through the rapid turnover of the chloroplastic acetyl-CoA pool via glycolate oxidation. The results support a role of the C₁ pathway to provide an alternative carbon source for glycine methylation in photorespiration, enhance CO₂ concentrations within chloroplasts, and produce key C₂ intermediates (e.g., acetyl-CoA) central to anabolic and catabolic metabolism.

Forest structure and carbon dynamics in Amazonian tropical rain forests

Living trees constitute one of the major stocks of carbon in tropical forests. A better understanding of variations in the dynamics and structure of tropical forests is necessary for predicting the potential for these ecosystems to lose or store carbon, and for understanding how they recover from disturbance. Amazonian tropical forests occur over a vast area that encompasses differences in topography, climate, and geologic substrate. We observed large differences in forest structure, biomass, and tree growth rates in permanent plots situated in the eastern (near Santarém, Pará), central (near Manaus, Amazonas) and southwestern (near Rio Branco, Acre) Amazon, which differed in dry season length, as well as other factors. Forests at the two sites experiencing longer dry seasons, near Rio Branco and Santarém, had lower stem frequencies (460 and 466 ha(-1) respectively), less biodiversity (Shannon-Wiener diversity index), and smaller aboveground C stocks (140.6 and 122.1 Mg C ha(-1)) than the Manaus site (626 trees ha(-1), 180.1 Mg C ha(-1)), which had less seasonal variation in rainfall. The forests experiencing longer dry seasons also stored a greater proportion of the total biomass in trees with >50 cm diameter (41-45 vs 30% in Manaus). Rates of annual addition of C to living trees calculated from monthly dendrometer band measurements were 1.9 (Manaus), 2.8 (Santarém), and 2.6 (Rio Branco) Mg C ha(-1) year(-1). At all sites, trees in the 10-30 cm diameter class accounted for the highest proportion of annual growth (38, 55 and 56% in Manaus, Rio Branco and Santarém, respectively). Growth showed marked seasonality, with largest stem diameter increment in the wet season and smallest in the dry season, though this may be confounded by seasonal variation in wood water content. Year-to-year variations in C allocated to stem growth ranged from nearly zero in Rio Branco, to 0.8 Mg C ha(-1) year(-1) in Manaus (40% of annual mean) and 0.9 Mg C ha(-1) year(-1) (33% of annual mean) in Santarém, though this variability showed no significant relation with precipitation among years. Initial estimates of the C balance of live wood including recruitment and mortality as well as growth suggests that live wood biomass is at near steady-state in Manaus, but accumulating at about 1.5 Mg C ha(-1) at the other two sites. The causes of C imbalance in living wood pools in Santarém and Rio Branco sites are unknown, but may be related to previous disturbance at these sites. Based on size distribution and growth rate differences in the three sites, we predict that trees in the Manaus forest have greater mean age (approximately 240 years) than those of the other two forests (approximately 140 years).

Relative influence of precession and obliquity in the early Holocene: Topographic modulation of subtropical seasonality during the Asian summer monsoon

On orbital timescales, higher summer insolation is thought to strengthen the continental monsoon while weakening the maritime monsoon in the Northern hemisphere. Through simulations using the Community Earth System Model, we evaluated the relative influence of perihelion precession and high obliquity in the early Holocene during the Asian summer monsoon. The major finding was that precession dominates the atmospheric heating change over the Tibetan Plateau–Himalayas and Maritime Continent, whereas obliquity is responsible for the heating change over the equatorial Indian Ocean. Thus, precession and obliquity can play contrasting roles in driving the monsoons on orbital timescales. In late spring–early summer, interior Asian continental heating drives the South and East Asian monsoons. The broad-scale monsoonal circulation further expands zonally in July–August, corresponding to the development of summer monsoons in West Africa and the subtropical Western North Pacific (WNP) as well as a sizable increase in convection over the equatorial Indian Ocean. Tropical and oceanic heating becomes crucial in late summer. Over South Asia–Indian Ocean (50°E−110°E), the precession maximum intensifies the monsoonal Hadley cell (heating with an inland/highland origin), which is opposite to the meridional circulation change induced by high obliquity (heating with a tropical origin). The existence of the Tibetan Plateau–Himalayas intensifies the precessional impact. During the late-summer phase of the monsoon season, the effect of obliquity on tropical heating can be substantial. In addition to competing with Asian continental heating, obliquity-enhanced heating over the equatorial Indian Ocean also has a Walker-type circulation impact, resulting in suppression of precession-enhanced heating over the Maritime Continent.

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