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Title: Multi-scale drivers of spatial variation in old-growth forest carbon density disentangled with Lidar and an individual-based landscape model

Author: Seidl, Rupert; Spies, Thomas A.; Rammer, Werner; Steel, E. Ashley; Pabst, Robert J.; Olsen, Keith.;

Date: 2012

Source: Ecosystems. 15: 1321-1335

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Forest ecosystems are the most important terrestrial carbon (C) storage globally, and presently mitigate anthropogenic climate change by acting as a large and persistent sink for atmospheric CO2. Yet, forest C density varies greatly in space, both globally and at stand and landscape levels. Understanding the multi-scale drivers of this variation is a prerequisite for robust and effective climate change mitigation in ecosystem management. Here, we used airborne light detection and ranging (Lidar) and a novel high-resolution simulation model of landscape dynamics (iLand) to identify the drivers of variation in C density for an old-growth forest landscape in Oregon, USA. With total ecosystem C in excess of 1 Gt ha-1 these ecosystems are among the most C-rich globally. Our findings revealed considerable spatial variability in stand-level C density across the landscape. Notwithstanding the distinct environmental gradients in our mountainous study area only 55.3% of this variation was explained by environmental drivers, with radiation and soil physical properties having a stronger influence than temperature and precipitation. The remaining variation in C stocks was largely attributable to emerging properties of stand dynamics (that is, stand structure and composition). Not only were density- and size-related indicators positively associated with C stocks but also diversity in composition and structure, documenting a close link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. We conclude that the complexity of old-growth forests contributes to their sustained high C levels, a finding that is relevant to managing forests for climate change mitigation.

Keywords: forest carbon storage, old-growth forests, climate change mitigation, ecosystem structure and functioning, functional diversity, forest stand dynamics, airborne Lidar, individual-based modeling, iLand

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Seidl, Rupert; Spies, Thomas A.; Rammer, Werner; Steel, E. Ashley; Pabst, Robert J.; Olsen, Keith. 2012. Multi-scale drivers of spatial variation in old-growth forest carbon density disentangled with Lidar and an individual-based landscape model. Ecosystems. 15: 1321-1335.

 


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