Post-fire stand structure impacts carbon storage within Siberian larch forests

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Heather Dawn Alexander, Mississippi State University, Department of Forestry, Mississippi State, MS, United States, Susan Natali, Woods Hole Science Center Falmouth, Falmouth, MA, United States, Michael M Loranty, Colgate University, Geography, Hamilton, NY, United States, Michelle C Mack, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, United States, Sergei P Davydov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia and Nikita Zimov, Northeast Scientific Station, Cherskiy, Russia
Increased fire severity within boreal forests of the Siberian Arctic has the potential to alter forest stand development thereby altering carbon (C) accumulation rates and storage during the post-fire successional interval. One potential change is increased stand density, which may result from fire consumption of the soil organic layer and changes to the seedbed that favor germination and establishment of larch trees during early succession. In this study, we evaluated above- and belowground C pools across 12 stands of varying tree density within a single 75-year old fire scar located near Cherskii, Sakha Republic, Russia. In each stand, we inventoried the size and density of larch trees and large shrubs (Salix and Betula spp.), and in combination with with allometric equations, estimated aboveground contribution to C pools. We quantified woody debris C pools using the line intercept method. We sampled belowground C pools in the soil organic layer + upper (0-10 cm) mineral soil and coarse roots (> 2 mm diameter) using sediment cores and 0.25 x 0.25-m trenches, respectively. We found that high density stands store ~ 20% more C (~7,500 g C m-2) than low density stands (~5,800 g C m-2). In high density stands, about 35% more C is stored aboveground within live larch trees (1650 g C m-2) compared to low density stands (940 g C m-2), and about 15% more C is stored in the soil organic layer and upper mineral soil. Coarse root C was 20% higher in high density stands (~475 g C m-2) compared to those with low density (~350 g C m-2). Less C was stored in large shrubs in high density stands, both in aboveground portions and coarse roots, but these amounts were relatively small (< 10% of total C pools). A fire-driven shift to denser larch stands could increase C storage, leading to a negative feedback to climate, but the combined effects of density on C dynamics, summer and winter albedo, and future fire regimes will interact to determine the magnitude of any vegetation-climate feedbacks.