Age-dependent variation in the biophysical properties of boreal forests
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Age-dependent variation in the biophysical properties of boreal forests

  • Author(s): McMillan, Andrew M. S.
  • Goulden, M. L.
  • et al.

The changes in boreal forest hydrology, biogeochemistry, and biophysics during succession have critical implications for the sign and magnitude of the vegetation-climate feedbacks that might occur with a change in fire frequency, and also for the identification and attribution of changes in boreal forest to climate. We combined in situ measurements from eddy covariance sites located along an age transect in a Canadian boreal forest with spectral vegetation indices (SVIs) derived from Landsat and MODIS imagery. We found tight spatial relationships between Landsat SVIs and in situ measurements of three important biophysical properties: albedo, maximum daily uptake of CO2 (F CO2-max), and leaf area index (LAI). The tasseled cap indices were particularly well suited for tracking biophysical variation along an age transect. Trends in brightness, greenness, and wetness from 1984 to 2005 indicated how succession drives temporal trends in biophysical properties. Albedo and F CO2-max increased rapidly in the decade following fire and then decreased for the remainder of succession, while LAI continued to increase until ∼135 years and may decrease thereafter. The ratio of greenness to wetness indicated that photosynthesis was limited by leaf area before 10–12 years and by reduced leaf-level photosynthetic rates thereafter, coinciding with the successional replacement of broadleaf deciduous species by evergreen conifer species. The timing of phenological events was also strongly age-dependent, but the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) confounded the disappearance of the snowpack in spring for the onset of photosynthesis. Secondary succession was the dominant source of temporal variability in the biophysical properties we examined.

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