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The sensitivity of carbon fluxes to spring warming and summer drought depends on plant functional type in boreal forest ecosystems

  • Author(s): Welp, LR
  • Randerson, JT
  • Liu, HP
  • et al.

Warming during late winter and spring in recent decades has been credited with increasing high northern latitude CO2 uptake, but it is unclear how different species and plant functional types contribute to this response. To address this, we measured net ecosystem exchange (NEE) at a deciduous broadleaf (aspen and willow) forest and an evergreen conifer (black spruce) forest in interior Alaska over a 3-year period. We partitioned NEE into gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Re) components, assessing the impact of interannual climate variability on these fluxes during spring and summer. We found that interannual variability in both spring and summer NEE was greatest at the deciduous forest. Increases in spring air temperatures between 2002 and 2004 caused GPP to increase during the early part of the growing season (April, May, and June), with a 74% increase at the deciduous forest and a 16% increase at the evergreen forest. Re increased in parallel, by 61% and 15%, respectively. In contrast, a summer drought during 2004 caused GPP during August to decrease by 12% at the deciduous forest and by 9% at the evergreen forest. Concurrent increases in Re, by 21% and 2% for the two forests, further contributed to a reduction in net carbon uptake during the drought. Over the growing season (April-September) net carbon uptake increased by 40% at the deciduous forest and 3% at the evergreen forest in 2004 as compared with 2002. These results suggest that deciduous forests may contribute disproportionately to variability in atmospheric CO2 concentrations within the northern hemisphere and that the carbon balance of deciduous forests may have a greater sensitivity to future changes in climate. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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