Topographically driven differences in energy and water constrain climatic control on forest carbon sequestration
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Inst BIO5
Univ Arizona, Dept Hydrol & Water Resources
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CitationTopographically driven differences in energy and water constrain climatic control on forest carbon sequestration 2017, 8 (4):e01797 Ecosphere
Rights© 2017 Swetnam et al. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons AttributionLicense, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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AbstractMountains are vital to ecosystems and human society given their influence on global carbon and water cycles. Yet the extent to which topography regulates montane forest carbon uptake and storage remains poorly understood. To address this knowledge gap, we compared forest aboveground carbon loading to topographic metrics describing energy balance and water availability across three headwater catchments of the Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado, USA. The catchments range from 1800 to 3500 m above mean sea level with 46-102 cm/yr mean annual precipitation and -1.2 degrees to 12.3 degrees C mean annual temperature. In all three catchments, we found mean forest carbon loading consistently increased from ridges (27 +/- 19 Mg C ha) to valley bottoms (60 +/- 28 Mg C ha). Low topographic positions held up to 185 +/- 76 Mg C ha, more than twice the peak value of upper positions. Toe slopes fostered disproportionately high net carbon uptake relative to other topographic positions. Carbon storage was on average 20-40 Mg C ha greater on north to northeast aspects than on south to southwest aspects, a pattern most pronounced in the highest elevation, coldest and wettest catchment. Both the peak and mean aboveground carbon storage of the three catchments, crossing an 11 degrees C range in temperature and doubling of local precipitation, defied the expectation of an optimal elevation-gradient climatic zone for net primary production. These results have important implications for models of forest sensitivity to climate change, as well as to predicted estimates of continental carbon reservoirs.
Noteopen access journal
VersionFinal published version
SponsorsNational Science Foundation [NSF-0724960, DBI-0735191, DBI-1265383]; NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, Instrumentation and Facilities Program [EAR-1043051]; U.S. Department of Energy's Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program (DOE ) [DE-SC0006968]; Santa Catalina-Jemez River Basin CZO [NSF-1331408]