Top-down constraints on disturbance dynamics in the terrestrial carbon cycle: effects at global and regional scales

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Jean-Fran├žois Exbrayat1, A. Anthony Bloom2, Ivar van der Velde3, Wouter Peters3 and Mathew Williams4, (1)University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences, Edinburgh, EH9, United Kingdom, (2)Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States, (3)Wageningen University, Meteorology and Air Quality, Wageningen, Netherlands, (4)University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Large uncertainties preside over terrestrial carbon flux estimates on a global scale. In particular, the strongly coupled dynamics between net ecosystem productivity and disturbance C losses are poorly constrained. To gain an improved understanding of ecosystem C dynamics from regional to global scale, we apply a Markov Chain Monte Carlo based model-data-fusion approach into the CArbon DAta-MOdel fraMework (CARDAMOM). We assimilate MODIS LAI and burned area, plant-trait data, and use the Harmonized World Soil Database (HWSD) and maps of above ground biomass as prior knowledge for initial conditions. We optimize model parameters based on (a) globally spanning observations and (b) ecological and dynamic constraints that force single parameter values and parameter inter-dependencies to be representative of real world processes.

We determine the spatial and temporal dynamics of major terrestrial C fluxes and model parameter values on a global scale (GPP = 123 +/- 8 Pg C yr-1 & NEE = -1.8 +/- 2.7 Pg C yr-1). We further show that the incorporation of disturbance fluxes, and accounting for their instantaneous or delayed effect, is of critical importance in constraining global C cycle dynamics, particularly in the tropics. In a higher resolution case study centred on the Amazon Basin we show how fires not only trigger large instantaneous emissions of burned matter, but also how they are responsible for a sustained reduction of up to 50% in plant uptake following the depletion of biomass stocks. The combination of these two fire-induced effects leads to a 1 g C m-2 d-1reduction in the strength of the net terrestrial carbon sink.

Through our simulations at regional and global scale, we advocate the need to assimilate disturbance metrics in global terrestrial carbon cycle models to bridge the gap between globally spanning terrestrial carbon cycle data and the full dynamics of the ecosystem C cycle. Disturbances are especially important because their quick occurrence may have long-term effects on ecosystems. Our synthetic simulations show that while tropical ecosystems uptake may reach pre-disturbance level after a decade, biomass stocks would most likely need more than a century to recover from a single extreme disturbance event.