Observing and Quantifying Ecological Disturbance Impacts on Semi-arid Biomes in the Southwestern US.

Monday, 15 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Marcy E Litvak1, Daniel J Krofcheck1, Laura Morillas1 and Andrew M Fox2, (1)University of New Mexico Main Campus, Albuquerque, NM, United States, (2)NEON, Boulder, CO, United States
The magnitude of carbon fluxes through arid and semi-arid ecosystems is considered modest, but integrated over the ~40% of the global land surface covered by these ecosystems, the total carbon stored is almost twice that in temperate forest ecosystems. In the semi-arid Southwestern U.S., drought and rising temperatures have triggered insect outbreaks, fire and widespread mortality in the past 5 years, all of which are predicted to increase in the next century. Understanding how resilient carbon pools and fluxes in these biomes are to these disturbances constitutes a large uncertainty in our ability to understand both carbon and energy flux dynamics in this region. We use an 8 year record (2007-2014) of continuous measurements of net ecosystem exchange of carbon (NEE) and its components (gross primary productivity (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Re), and evapotranspiration (ET) made over the New Mexico Elevation Gradient (NMEG) network of flux tower sites (desert grassland, creosote shrubland, juniper savanna, piñon-juniper woodland, ponderosa pine and subalpine mixed conifer) to quantify the biome-specific responses of carbon and water dynamics to these disturbances. In particular, we focus on biome-specific responses across the NMEG biomes to the extended drought in this region from 2011-2014, and to the widespread mortality observed in piñon-juniper woodlands following the turn of the century drought (1999-2002) and multi-year recent drought. Finally, we compare functional responses of land-surface fluxes to recent catastrophic fires (grassland, subalpine conifer biomes), and insect outbreaks (subalpine conifer and piñon-juniper woodland biomes). We discuss the results in terms of which disturbances have contributed to and are likely to trigger the largest changes in carbon sequestration in this region in response to predicted climate change scenarios.