Long-term impact of a stand-replacing fire on ecosystem CO2 exchange of a ponderosa pine forest

Sabina Dore, Thomas E Kolb, M. Montes-Helu, B. W. Sullivan, W. D. Winslow, S. C. Hart, J. P. Kaye, George W Koch, Bruce A Hungate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

102 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of the southwestern United States are a mosaic of stands where undisturbed forests are carbon sinks, and stands recovering from wildfires may be sources of carbon to the atmosphere for decades after the fire. However, the relative magnitude of these sinks and sources has never been directly measured in this region, limiting our understanding of the role of fire in regional and US carbon budgets. We used the eddy covariance technique to measure the CO2 exchange of two forest sites, one burned by fire in 1996, and an unburned forest. The fire was a high-intensity stand-replacing burn that killed all trees. Ten years after the fire, the burned site was still a source of CO2 to the atmosphere [109±6 (SEM) g Cm-2yr-1], whereas the unburned site was a sink (-164 ± 23 g Cm-2 yr-1). The fire reduced total carbon storage and shifted ecosystem carbon allocation from the forest floor and living biomass to necromass. Annual ecosystem respiration was lower at the burned site (480 ± 5 g Cm-2yr-1) than at the unburned site (710 ± 54 g Cm-2 yr-1), but the difference in gross primary production was even larger (372 ± 13 g Cm-2yr-1 at the burned site and 858 ± 37 g Cm-2yr-1 at the unburned site). Water availability controlled carbon flux in the warm season at both sites, and the burned site was a source of carbon in all months, even during the summer, when wet and warm conditions favored respiration more than photosynthesis. Our study shows that carbon losses following stand-replacing fires in ponderosa pine forests can persist for decades due to slow recovery of the gross primary production. Because fire exclusion is becoming increasingly difficult in dry western forests, a large US forest carbon sink could shift to a decadal-scale carbon source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1801-1820
Number of pages20
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2008

Fingerprint

Ecosystems
Fires
Carbon
ecosystem
carbon sink
carbon
primary production
respiration
atmosphere
biomass allocation
carbon budget
eddy covariance
carbon flux
forest floor
wildfire
water availability
carbon sequestration
Photosynthesis
photosynthesis
scanning electron microscopy

Keywords

  • Carbon
  • CO flux
  • Conifer
  • Disturbance
  • Eddy covariance
  • GPP
  • NEE
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • Respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

Long-term impact of a stand-replacing fire on ecosystem CO2 exchange of a ponderosa pine forest. / Dore, Sabina; Kolb, Thomas E; Montes-Helu, M.; Sullivan, B. W.; Winslow, W. D.; Hart, S. C.; Kaye, J. P.; Koch, George W; Hungate, Bruce A.

In: Global Change Biology, Vol. 14, No. 8, 08.2008, p. 1801-1820.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dore, Sabina ; Kolb, Thomas E ; Montes-Helu, M. ; Sullivan, B. W. ; Winslow, W. D. ; Hart, S. C. ; Kaye, J. P. ; Koch, George W ; Hungate, Bruce A. / Long-term impact of a stand-replacing fire on ecosystem CO2 exchange of a ponderosa pine forest. In: Global Change Biology. 2008 ; Vol. 14, No. 8. pp. 1801-1820.
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