Climate Indices Strongly Influence Old-Growth Forest Carbon Exchange

  • Sites: US-Wrc
  • Matthias Falk (2016/04) Climate Indices Strongly Influence Old-Growth Forest Carbon Exchange, Environmental Research Letters, 11, 1-12.
  • Funding Agency: —

  • We present a decade and a half (1998-2013) of carbon dioxide fluxes from an old-growth stand in the American Pacific Northwest to identify ecosystem-level responses to Pacific teleconnection patterns, including the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This study provides the longest, continuous record of old-growth eddy flux data to date from one of the longest running Fluxnet stations in the world. From 1998-2013, average annual net ecosystem exchange (FNEE) at Wind River AmeriFlux was – 32 ± 84 g C m-2 yr-1 indicating that the late seral forest is on average a small net sink of atmospheric carbon. However, interannual variability is high (> 300 g C m-2 yr-1) and shows that the stand switches from net carbon sink to source in response to climate drivers associated with ENSO. The old-growth forest is a much stronger sink during La Niña years (mean FNEE = – 90 g C m-2 yr-1) than during El Niño when the stand turns carbon neutral or into a small net carbon source (mean FNEE = + 17 g C m-2 yr-1). Forest inventory data dating back to the 1930’s show a similar correlation with the lower frequency Pacific North American (PNA) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) whereby higher aboveground net primary productivity (FANPP) is associated with cool phases of both the PNA and PDO. These measurements add evidence that carbon exchange in old-growth stands may be more sensitive to climate variability across shorter time scales than once thought.