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Funded Research

Exploring the Interactions Between Carbon Cycling, Land Use and Climate Change Within Mixed Agricultural, Forested, Suburban, and Urban Landscapes

Xiao, Jingfeng: University of New Hampshire (Project Lead)
Contosta, Alix: University of New Hampshire (Co-Investigator)
Li, Changsheng: University of New Hampshire (Co-Investigator)
Ollinger, Scott: University of New Hampshire (Co-Investigator)
Tang, Junmei: University of Maryland (Co-Investigator)
Varner, Ruth: University of New Hampshire (Co-Investigator)
Lepine, Lucie: University of New Hamphire (Participant)
Ouimette, Andrew: University of New Hampshire (Participant)

Project Funding: 2014 - 2017

NRA: 2013 NASA: Carbon Cycle Science   

Funded by NASA

Human activities (e.g., urbanization, land use planning) have led to complex patterns of urban, suburban, agricultural, and forested landscapes. Ecosystems within these landscapes play an important role in climate regulation by acting as regulators of CO2 and other greenhouse gases and altering surface albedo and other biophysical properties. Although climate change policy initiatives often include incentives for land management activities that can offset warming, most have focused on enhanced carbon storage. Often not considered is the fact that these practices also bear climate consequences through other mechanisms (N2O and CH4 emissions, altered albedo, etc). Better understanding of the processes controlling the uptake, storage, and release of greenhouse gas emissions along urban to rural gradients is essential for evaluating how alternative patterns of land use interact with carbon cycling and climate change and how future land use change will influence carbon sequestration potential within these complex landscapes. The overarching goal of our work is to examine the interactions among carbon cycling, land use, and climate change in a human-dominated, mixed land use region that includes urban, suburban, agriculture, and forest land uses in southern New Hampshire. We plan to combine field measurements of carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4, and N2O), an improved process-based biogeochemical model - DNDC (DeNitrification and DeComposition) designed to predict C fluxes and trace gas emissions, historical and projected land use change data derived from Landsat imagery and cellular automata/agent-based modeling, and high spectral resolution remote sensing data from NASA Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS). Our specific objectives designed to achieve the overarching goal are to: (1) Measure C pools and greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4, and N2O) in urban, suburban, agricultural, and forested landscapes; (2) Improve and parameterize the DNDC (DeNitrification and DeComposition) model and validate model predictions; (3) Develop historical land use change data for the last three decades from Landsat imagery and projections of future land use change; (4) Generate spatially continuous predictions of C pools and greenhouse gas emissions using Urban-DNDC and assess how land use interacts with C cycling and climate change and how future land use change will influence carbon sequestration potential within these complex landscapes; and (5) Determine the net radiative forcing values (in w m-2) for the major greenhouse units using CO2 and climate change scenarios. Our research is directly responsive to this Carbon Cycle Science program element - Theme 4: Carbon Dynamics within Urban-Suburban-Forested-Agricultural Landscapes, and is highly relevant to the goals and objectives of NASA, USDA, DOE, and NOAA. Our work will reveal how carbon dynamics, non-CO2 greenhouse gases, surface albedo, land use, and climate change interact with each other. It will also elucidate how future land use change will influence C cycling within complex landscapes. Our results will have implications for crafting effective land management policies that balance C sequestration and climate mitigation with food production, forest resources and many other services that these landscapes provide. Results of this activity will highlight tradeoffs among multiple land management strategies in terms of their net climate effect. Information of this nature is of critical importance for preparing sound land management policies and designing strategies to cope with changes in climate.


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Li, X., Xiao, J., He, B. 2018. Higher absorbed solar radiation partly offset the negative effects of water stress on the photosynthesis of Amazon forests during the 2015 drought. Environmental Research Letters. 13(4), 044005. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aab0b1

Li, X., Xiao, J., He, B., Altaf Arain, M., Beringer, J., Desai, A. R., Emmel, C., Hollinger, D. Y., Krasnova, A., Mammarella, I., Noe, S. M., Ortiz, P. S., Rey-Sanchez, A. C., Rocha, A. V., Varlagin, A. 2018. Solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence is strongly correlated with terrestrial photosynthesis for a wide variety of biomes: First global analysis based on OCO-2 and flux tower observations. Global Change Biology. 24(9), 3990-4008. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14297

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Ouimette, A. P., Ollinger, S. V., Richardson, A. D., Hollinger, D. Y., Keenan, T. F., Lepine, L. C., Vadeboncoeur, M. A. 2018. Carbon fluxes and interannual drivers in a temperate forest ecosystem assessed through comparison of top-down and bottom-up approaches. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 256-257, 420-430. DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2018.03.017

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Sun, S., Sun, G., Caldwell, P., McNulty, S., Cohen, E., Xiao, J., Zhang, Y. 2015. Drought impacts on ecosystem functions of the U.S. National Forests and Grasslands: Part II assessment results and management implications. Forest Ecology and Management. 353, 269-279. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.04.002

Tang, J., Di, L., Xiao, J., Lu, D., Zhou, Y. 2017. Impacts of land use and socioeconomic patterns on urban heat Island. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 38(11), 3445-3465. DOI: 10.1080/01431161.2017.1295485

Xiao, J., Chevallier, F., Gomez, C., Guanter, L., Hicke, J. A., Huete, A. R., Ichii, K., Ni, W., Pang, Y., Rahman, A. F., Sun, G., Yuan, W., Zhang, L., Zhang, X. 2019. Remote sensing of the terrestrial carbon cycle: A review of advances over 50 years. Remote Sensing of Environment. 233, 111383. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2019.111383

Xiao, J., Li, X., He, B., Arain, M. A., Beringer, J., Desai, A. R., Emmel, C., Hollinger, D. Y., Krasnova, A., Mammarella, I., Noe, S. M., Serrano Ortiz, P., Rey-Sanchez, C., Rocha, A. V., Varlagin, A. 2019. Solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence exhibits a universal relationship with gross primary productivity across a wide variety of biomes. Global Change Biology. 25(4), e4-e6. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14565

Xue, B., Guo, Q., Hu, T., Xiao, J., Yang, Y., Wang, G., Tao, S., Su, Y., Liu, J., Zhao, X. 2017. Global patterns of woody residence time and its influence on model simulation of aboveground biomass. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 31(5), 821-835. DOI: 10.1002/2016GB005557

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Zheng, Y., Zhang, L., Xiao, J., Yuan, W., Yan, M., Li, T., Zhang, Z. 2018. Sources of uncertainty in gross primary productivity simulated by light use efficiency models: Model structure, parameters, input data, and spatial resolution. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 263, 242-257. DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2018.08.003

Thorn, A. M., Xiao, J., Ollinger, S. V. 2015. Generalization and evaluation of the process-based forest ecosystem model PnET-CN for other biomes. Ecosphere. 6(3), art43. DOI: 10.1890/ES14-00542.1

Wang, W., Xiao, J., Ollinger, S. V., Desai, A. R., Chen, J., Noormets, A. 2014. Quantifying the effects of harvesting on carbon fluxes and stocks in northern temperate forests. Biogeosciences. 11(23), 6667-6682. DOI: 10.5194/bg-11-6667-2014

2015 NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop Poster(s)

  • Exploring the interactions between carbon cycling, land use and climate change within mixed agricultural, forested, suburban, and urban landscapes   --   (Jingfeng Xiao, Changsheng Li, Alix Contosta, Ruth K. Varner, Scott Ollinger, Junmei Tang, Jia Deng)   [abstract]

More details may be found in the following project profile(s):