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Changes in land use and land cover (LULC) can have profound effects on terrestrial carbon dynamics, yet their effects on the global carbon budget remain uncertain. While land change impacts on ecosystem carbon dynamics have been the focus of numerous studies, few efforts have been based on observational data incorporating multiple ecosystem types spanning large geographic areas over long time horizons. In this study we use a variety of synoptic-scale remote sensing data to estimate the effect of LULC changes associated with urbanization, agricultural expansion and contraction, forest harvest, and wildfire on the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems (forest, grasslands, shrublands, and agriculture) in the conterminous...
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Estimates of the seasonal and interannual exchanges of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) between land ecosystems north of 45°N and the atmosphere are poorly constrained, in part, because of uncertainty in the temporal variability of water-inundated land area. Here we apply a process-based biogeochemistry model to evaluate how interannual changes in wetland inundation extent might have influenced the overall carbon dynamics of the region during the time period 1993–2004. We find that consideration by our model of these interannual variations between 1993 and 2004, on average, results in regional estimates of net methane sources of 67.8 ± 6.2 Tg CH4 yr−1, which is intermediate to model estimates that use two...
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Permafrost (perennially frozen) soils store vast amounts of organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) that are vulnerable to mobilization as dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved organic and inorganic nitrogen (DON, DIN) upon thaw. Such releases will affect the biogeochemistry of permafrost regions, yet little is known about the chemical composition and source variability of active-layer (seasonally frozen) and permafrost soil DOC, DON and DIN. We quantified DOC, total dissolved N (TDN), DON, and DIN leachate yields from deep active-layer and near-surface boreal Holocene permafrost soils in interior Alaska varying in soil C and N content and radiocarbon age to determine potential release upon thaw. Soil cores were...
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There is a substantial amount of carbon stored in the permafrost soils of boreal forest ecosystems, where it is currently protected from decomposition. The surface organic horizons insulate the deeper soil from variations in atmospheric temperature. The removal of these insulating horizons through consumption by fire increases the vulnerability of permafrost to thaw, and the carbon stored in permafrost to decomposition. In this study we ask how warming and fire regime may influence spatial and temporal changes in active layer and carbon dynamics across a boreal forest landscape in interior Alaska. To address this question, we (1) developed and tested a predictive model of the effect of fire severity on soil organic...
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The effectiveness of conservation efforts ultimately depends on the recognition that decision making, and the systems that it is designed to affect, are inherently dynamic and characterized by multiple sources of uncertainty. To cope with these challenges, conservation planners are increasingly turning to the tools of decision analysis, especially dynamic optimization methods. Here we provide a general framework for optimal, dynamic conservation and then explore its capacity for coping with various sources and degrees of uncertainty. In broadest terms, the dynamic optimization problem in conservation is choosing among a set of decision options at periodic intervals so as to maximize some conservation objective over...
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The vast amount of organic carbon (OC) stored in soils of the northern circumpolar permafrost region is a potentially vulnerable component of the global carbon cycle. However, estimates of the quantity, decomposability, and combustibility of OC contained in permafrost-region soils remain highly uncertain, thereby limiting our ability to predict the release of greenhouse gases due to permafrost thawing. Substantial differences exist between empirical and modeling estimates of the quantity and distribution of permafrost-region soil OC, which contribute to large uncertainties in predictions of carbon–climate feedbacks under future warming. Here, we identify research challenges that constrain current assessments of...
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Subsurface fluid-pressure declines caused by pumping of groundwater or hydrocarbons can lead to aquifer-system compaction and consequent land subsidence. This subsidence can be rapid, as much as 30 cm per year in some instances, and large, totaling more than 13 m in extreme examples. Thus anthropogenic subsidence may be the dominant contributor to relative sea-level rise in coastal environments where subsurface fluids are heavily exploited. Maximum observed rates of human-induced subsidence greatly exceed the rates of natural subsidence of unconsolidated sediments (~0.1–1 cm yr−1) and the estimated rates of ongoing global sea-level rise (~0.3 cm yr−1).
Global climate change is predicted to increase the intensity and frequency of future drought, which in turn may be expected to induce a range of biogeochemical climate feedbacks. A combination of model simulations and observational studies of a recent wide-scale drought, suggested that the drought induced substantial terrestrial ecosystem carbon loss, but hypothesized mechanisms could not be evaluated via comparison to a control. Here, we investigated carbon-cycle responses to climate changes by combining results from a controlled 15-year ecosystem warming experiment in montane grassland with observational data from before and during the recent drought. We found that both experimental warming and real-world drought...
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Fire is an important factor controlling the composition and thickness of the organic layer in the black spruce forest ecosystems of interior Alaska. Fire that burns the organic layer can trigger dramatic changes in the underlying permafrost, leading to accelerated ground thawing within a relatively short time. In this study, we addressed the following questions. (1) Which factors determine post-fire ground temperature dynamics in lowland and upland black spruce forests? (2) What levels of burn severity will cause irreversible permafrost degradation in these ecosystems? We evaluated these questions in a transient modeling–sensitivity analysis framework to assess the sensitivity of permafrost to climate, burn severity,...
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A wide range of research shows that nutrient availability strongly influences terrestrial carbon (C) cycling and shapes ecosystem responses to environmental changes and hence terrestrial feedbacks to climate. Nonetheless, our understanding of nutrient controls remains far from complete and poorly quantified, at least partly due to a lack of informative, comparable, and accessible datasets at regional-to-global scales. A growing research infrastructure of multi-site networks are providing valuable data on C fluxes and stocks and are monitoring their responses to global environmental change and measuring responses to experimental treatments. These networks thus provide an opportunity for improving our understanding...
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Water shortages in California are a growing concern amidst ongoing drought, earlier spring snowmelt, projected future climate warming, and currently mandated water use restrictions. Increases in population and land use in coming decades will place additional pressure on already limited available water supplies. We used a state-and-transition simulation model to project future changes in developed (municipal and industrial) and agricultural land use to estimate associated water use demand from 2012 to 2062. Under current efficiency rates, total water use was projected to increase 1.8 billion cubic meters(+4.1%) driven primarily by urbanization and shifts to more water intensive crops. Only if currently mandated 25%...
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The permafrost component of the cryosphere is changing dramatically, but the permafrost region is not well monitored and the consequences of change are not well understood. Changing permafrost interacts with ecosystems and climate on various spatial and temporal scales. The feedbacks resulting from these interactions range from local impacts on topography, hydrology, and biology to complex influences on global scale biogeochemical cycling. This review contributes to this focus issue by synthesizing its 28 multidisciplinary studies which provide field evidence, remote sensing observations, and modeling results on various scales. We synthesize study results from a diverse range of permafrost landscapes and ecosystems...
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The physical surface of the Earth is in constant change due to climate forcing and human activities. In the Midwestern United States, urban area, farmland, and dedicated energy crop (e.g., switchgrass) cultivation are predicted to expand in the coming decades, which will lead to changes in hydrological processes. This study is designed to (1) project the land use and land cover (LULC) by mid-century using the FORecasting SCEnarios of future land-use (FORE-SCE) model under the A1B greenhouse gas emission scenario (future condition) and (2) assess its potential impacts on the water cycle and water quality against the 2001 baseline condition in the Cedar River Basin using the physically based soil and water assessment...
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Eroding permafrost coasts are indicators and integrators of changes in the Arctic System as they are susceptible to the combined effects of declining sea ice extent, increases in open water duration, more frequent and impactful storms, sea-level rise, and warming permafrost. However, few observation sites in the Arctic have yet to link decadal-scale erosion rates with changing environmental conditions due to temporal data gaps. This study increases the temporal fidelity of coastal permafrost bluff observations using near-annual high spatial resolution (<1 m) satellite imagery acquired between 2008 and 2017 for a 9-km segment of coastline at Drew Point, Beaufort Sea coast, Alaska. Our results show that mean annual...
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Storms following wildfires are known to impair drinking water supplies in the southwestern United States, yet our understanding of the role of precipitation in post-wildfire water quality is far from complete. We quantitatively assessed water-quality impacts of different hydrologic events in the Colorado Front Range and found that for a three-year period, substantial hydrologic and geochemical responses downstream of a burned area were primarily driven by convective storms with a 30 min rainfall intensity >10 mm h−1. These storms, which typically occur several times each year in July–September, are often small in area, short-lived, and highly variable in intensity and geographic distribution. Thus, a rain gage network...
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Increases in air, permafrost, and sea surface temperature, loss of sea ice, the potential for increased wave energy, and higher river discharge may all be interacting to escalate erosion of arctic coastal lowland landscapes. Here we use airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data acquired in 2006 and 2010 to detect landscape change in a 100 km2 study area on the Beaufort Sea coastal plain of northern Alaska. We detected statistically significant change (99% confidence interval), defined as contiguous areas (>10 m2) that had changed in height by at least 0.55 m, in 0.3% of the study region. Erosional features indicative of ice-rich permafrost degradation were associated with ice-bonded coastal, river, and lake...
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The Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska is characterized by thermokarst lakes and drained lake basins, and the rate of coastal erosion has increased during the last half-century. Portions of the coast are <1 m above sea level for kilometers inland, and are underlain by ice-rich permafrost. Increased storm surges or terrestrial subsidence would therefore expand the area subject to marine inundation. Since 1976, the distribution of molting Black Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) on the Arctic Coastal Plain has shifted from inland freshwater lakes to coastal marshes, such as those occupying the Smith River and Garry Creek estuaries. We hypothesized that the movement of geese from inland lakes was caused by an expansion...
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Recent large and frequent fires above the Alaskan arctic circle have forced a reassessment of the ecological and climatological importance of fire in arctic tundra ecosystems. Here we provide a general overview of the occurrence, distribution, and ecological and climate implications of Alaskan tundra fires over the past half-century using spatially explicit climate, fire, vegetation and remote sensing datasets for Alaska. Our analyses highlight the importance of vegetation biomass and environmental conditions in regulating tundra burning, and demonstrate that most tundra ecosystems are susceptible to burn, providing the environmental conditions are right. Over the past two decades, fire perimeters above the arctic...
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High latitude ecosystems are prone to phenological mismatches due to climate change- driven advances in the growing season and changing arrival times of migratory herbivores. These changes have the potential to alter biogeochemical cycling and contribute to feedbacks on climate change by altering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) through large regions of the Arctic. Yet the effects of phenological mismatches on gas fluxes are currently unexplored. We used a three-year field experiment that altered the start of the growing season and timing of grazing to investigate how phenological mismatch affects GHG exchange. We found early grazing increased mean GHG...
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This study investigates the long-term trends in precipitation, runoff and runoff coefficient in major urban watersheds in the United States. The seasonal Mann–Kendall trend test was performed on monthly precipitation, runoff and runoff coefficient data from 1950 to 2009 obtained from 62 urban watersheds covering 21 major urban centers in the United States. The results indicate that only five out of 21 urban centers in the United States showed an uptrend in precipitation. Twelve urban centers showed an uptrend in runoff coefficient. However, six urban centers did not show any trend in runoff coefficient, and three urban centers showed a significant downtrend. The highest rate of change in precipitation, runoff and...


map background search result map search result map The footprint of Alaskan tundra fires during the past half-century: implications for surface properties and radiative forcing Analysis of long-term trends (1950–2009) in precipitation, runoff and runoff coefficient in major urban watersheds in the United States Effects of fire on the thermal stability of permafrost in lowland and upland black spruce forests of interior Alaska in a changing climate Modeling the effects of fire severity and climate warming on active layer and soil carbon dynamics of black spruce forests across the landscape in interior Alaska Inundation, sedimentation, and subsidence creates goose habitat along the Arctic coast of Alaska Quantifying landscape change in an arctic coastal lowland using repeat airborne LiDAR Quantifying landscape change in an arctic coastal lowland using repeat airborne LiDAR Modeling the effects of fire severity and climate warming on active layer and soil carbon dynamics of black spruce forests across the landscape in interior Alaska The footprint of Alaskan tundra fires during the past half-century: implications for surface properties and radiative forcing Effects of fire on the thermal stability of permafrost in lowland and upland black spruce forests of interior Alaska in a changing climate Inundation, sedimentation, and subsidence creates goose habitat along the Arctic coast of Alaska Analysis of long-term trends (1950–2009) in precipitation, runoff and runoff coefficient in major urban watersheds in the United States