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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Interactions between soil thermal and hydrological dynamics in the response of Alaska ecosystems to fire disturbance

  • Author(s): Yi, Shuhua
  • McGuire, A. David
  • Harden, Jennifer
  • Kasischke, Eric
  • Manies, Kristen
  • Hinzman, Larry
  • Liljedahl, Anna
  • Randerson, Jim
  • Liu, Heping
  • Romanovsky, Vladimir
  • Marchenko, Sergei
  • Kim, Yongwon
  • et al.

Soil temperature and moisture are important factors that control many ecosystem processes. However, interactions between soil thermal and hydrological processes are not adequately understood in cold regions, where the frozen soil, fire disturbance, and soil drainage play important roles in controlling interactions among these processes. These interactions were investigated with a new ecosystem model framework, the dynamic organic soil version of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model, that incorporates an efficient and stable numerical scheme for simulating soil thermal and hydrological dynamics within soil profiles that contain a live moss horizon, fibrous and amorphous organic horizons, and mineral soil horizons. The performance of the model was evaluated for a tundra burn site that had both preburn and postburn measurements, two black spruce fire chronosequences (representing space-for-time substitutions in well and intermediately drained conditions), and a poorly drained black spruce site. Although space-for-time substitutions present challenges in model-data comparison, the model demonstrates substantial ability in simulating the dynamics of evapotranspiration, soil temperature, active layer depth, soil moisture, and water table depth in response to both climate variability and fire disturbance. Several differences between model simulations and field measurements identified key challenges for evaluating/improving model performance that include (1) proper representation of discrepancies between air temperature and ground surface temperature; (2) minimization of precipitation biases in the driving data sets; (3) improvement of the measurement accuracy of soil moisture in surface organic horizons; and (4) proper specification of organic horizon depth/properties, and soil thermal conductivity.

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