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Funded Research

Modeling the impacts of major forest disturbances on the Earth's coupled carbon-climate system, and the capacity of forests to meet future demands for wood, fuel, and fiber

Hurtt, George: University of Maryland (Project Lead)
Collatz, George (Jim): NASA GSFC - retired (Institution Lead)
Dolan, Katelyn: University of Maryland (Participant)
Fisk, Justin: Applied Geosolutions (Participant)
le Page, Yannick: JGCRI (Participant)

Project Funding: 2010 - 2013

NRA: 2009 NASA: Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science   

Funded by NASA

The carbon balance of forested ecosystems are fundamentally linked to cycles of disturbance and recovery. Two of the most extreme natural disturbances are tropical cyclones and Amazon forest fires. While an average of more than 80 tropical storms and hurricanes occur per year, the number, severity, and impacts of these storms varies though time and may be increasing, while the committed carbon emissions from a single large storm such as Katrina can be as large as the net annual carbon sequestration of U.S. forest trees. Forest fires are a growing concern too, particularly in the sensitive Amazon region where they potentially compound the risk of forest die-back from climate change. The overall science goal of this proposal is to understand how altered natural disturbance rates could affect the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems, and as a consequence, the development strategies designed to mitigate against future climate change. In particular, we address two major science questions: (1) How could potentially altered disturbance rates from tropical cyclones and Amazonian fires affect vegetation, carbon stocks and fluxes, and the development of climate change mitigation strategies? (2) How does remote sensing data quantity and quality constrain model projections of the effects of altered disturbance rates on vegetation, carbon stocks and fluxes, and the development of climate change mitigation strategies? These science questions are addressed through four linked objectives: 1) remote sensing and modeling forest disturbances (tropical cyclones and Amazonian fires) (2) assess the consequences of forest disturbances in integrated assessments (3) link ecological and socio-economic models addressing forest disturbance and (4) quantify the implications of forest disturbances for future satellite missions and Earth System models. This proposal address NNH09ZDA001N-IDS sub-element 1: Integrated Earth System Responses to Extreme Disturbances.


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Dubayah, R. O., Sheldon, S. L., Clark, D. B., Hofton, M. A., Blair, J. B., Hurtt, G. C., Chazdon, R. L. 2010. Estimation of tropical forest height and biomass dynamics using lidar remote sensing at La Selva, Costa Rica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 115(G2). DOI: 10.1029/2009JG000933

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Fisk, J. P., Hurtt, G. C., Chambers, J. Q., Zeng, H., Dolan, K. A., Negron-Juarez, R. I. 2013. The impacts of tropical cyclones on the net carbon balance of eastern US forests (1851-2000). Environmental Research Letters. 8(4), 045017. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/045017

Fisk, J. (2015) Net Effects of Disturbance: Spatial, Temporal, and Societal Dimensions of Forest Disturbance and Recovery on Terrestrial Carbon Balance. Ph.D. Thesis. UNH.

Flanagan, S., Hurtt, G., Fisk, J., Sahajpal, R., Hansen, M., Dolan, K., Sullivan, J., Zhao, M. 2016. Potential Vegetation and Carbon Redistribution in Northern North America from Climate Change. Climate. 4(1), 2. DOI: 10.3390/cli4010002

Frolking, S., Milliman, T., Palace, M., Wisser, D., Lammers, R., Fahnestock, M. 2011. Tropical forest backscatter anomaly evident in SeaWinds scatterometer morning overpass data during 2005 drought in Amazonia. Remote Sensing of Environment. 115(3), 897-907. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2010.11.017

Frolking, S., Hagen, S., Milliman, T., Palace, M., Shimbo, J. Z., Fahnestock, M. 2012. Detection of Large-Scale Forest Canopy Change in Pan-Tropical Humid Forests 2000–2009 With the SeaWinds Ku-Band Scatterometer. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. 50(7), 2603-2617. DOI: 10.1109/TGRS.2011.2182516

Frolking, S., Milliman, T., Seto, K. C., Friedl, M. A. 2013. A global fingerprint of macro-scale changes in urban structure from 1999 to 2009. Environmental Research Letters. 8(2), 024004. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024004

Hall, F. G., Bergen, K., Blair, J. B., Dubayah, R., Houghton, R., Hurtt, G., Kellndorfer, J., Lefsky, M., Ranson, J., Saatchi, S., Shugart, H. H., Wickland, D. 2011. Characterizing 3D vegetation structure from space: Mission requirements. Remote Sensing of Environment. 115(11), 2753-2775. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2011.01.024

Hansen, M. C., Potapov, P. V., Moore, R., Hancher, M., Turubanova, S. A., Tyukavina, A., Thau, D., Stehman, S. V., Goetz, S. J., Loveland, T. R., Kommareddy, A., Egorov, A., Chini, L., Justice, C. O., Townshend, J. R. G. 2013. High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science. 342(6160), 850-853. DOI: 10.1126/science.1244693

Hurtt, G. C., Chini, L. P., Frolking, S., Betts, R. A., Feddema, J., Fischer, G., Fisk, J. P., Hibbard, K., Houghton, R. A., Janetos, A., Jones, C. D., Kindermann, G., Kinoshita, T., Klein Goldewijk, K., Riahi, K., Shevliakova, E., Smith, S., Stehfest, E., Thomson, A., Thornton, P., van Vuuren, D. P., Wang, Y. P. 2011. Harmonization of land-use scenarios for the period 1500-2100: 600 years of global gridded annual land-use transitions, wood harvest, and resulting secondary lands. Climatic Change. 109(1-2), 117-161. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0153-2

Hurtt, G. C., Fisk, J., Thomas, R. Q., Dubayah, R., Moorcroft, P. R., Shugart, H. H. 2010. Linking models and data on vegetation structure. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 115(G2). DOI: 10.1029/2009JG000937

Jones, A. D., Collins, W. D., Edmonds, J., Torn, M. S., Janetos, A., Calvin, K. V., Thomson, A., Chini, L. P., Mao, J., Shi, X., Thornton, P., Hurtt, G. C., Wise, M. 2013. Greenhouse Gas Policy Influences Climate via Direct Effects of Land-Use Change. Journal of Climate. 26(11), 3657-3670. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00377.1

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Lambin, E. F., Gibbs, H. K., Ferreira, L., Grau, R., Mayaux, P., Meyfroidt, P., Morton, D. C., Rudel, T. K., Gasparri, I., Munger, J. 2013. Estimating the world's potentially available cropland using a bottom-up approach. Global Environmental Change. 23(5), 892-901. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.05.005

Leadley, P., Proenca, V., Fernandez-Manjarres, J., Pereira, H. M., Alkemade, R., Biggs, R., Bruley, E., Cheung, W., Cooper, D., Figueiredo, J., Gilman, E., Guenette, S., Hurtt, G., Mbow, C., Oberdorff, T., Revenga, C., Scharlemann, J. P. W., Scholes, R., Smith, M. S., Sumaila, U. R., Walpole, M. 2014. Interacting Regional-Scale Regime Shifts for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. BioScience. 64(8), 665-679. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biu093

Le Page, Y., Morton, D., Bond-Lamberty, B., Pereira, J. M. C., Hurtt, G. 2015. HESFIRE: a global fire model to explore the role of anthropogenic and weather drivers. Biogeosciences. 12(3), 887-903. DOI: 10.5194/bg-12-887-2015

Le Page, Y., Morton, D., Bond-Lamberty, B., Pereira, J. M. C., Hurtt, G. 2015. HESFIRE: a global fire model to explore the role of anthropogenic and weather drivers. Biogeosciences. 12(3), 887-903. DOI: 10.5194/bg-12-887-2015

Le Quéré, C., G. P. Peters, R. J. Andres, R. M. Andrew, T. Boden, P. Ciais, P. Friedlingstein, R. A. Houghton, G. Marland, R. Moriarty, S. Sitch, P. Tans, A. Arneth, A. Arvanitis, D. C. E. Bakker, L. Bopp, J. G. Canadell, L. P. Chini, S. C. Doney, A. Harper, I. Harris, J. I. House, A. K. Jain, S. D. Jones, E. Kato, R. F. Keeling, K. Klein Goldewijk, A. Körtzinger, C. Koven, N. Lefèvre, A. Omar, T. Ono, G.-H. Park, B. Pfeil, B. Poulter, M. R. Raupach, P. Regnier, C. Rödenbeck, S. Saito, J. Schwinger, J. Segschneider, B. D. Stocker, B. Tilbrook, S. van Heuven, N. Viovy, R. Wanninkhof, A. Wiltshire, S. Zaehle, and C. Yue (2013). Global Carbon Budget 2013. Earth System Science Data. DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/GCP_2013_V2.3

Macedo, M. N., DeFries, R. S., Morton, D. C., Stickler, C. M., Galford, G. L., Shimabukuro, Y. E. 2012. Decoupling of deforestation and soy production in the southern Amazon during the late 2000s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109(4), 1341-1346. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111374109

McMichael, C. H., Palace, M. W., Bush, M. B., Braswell, B., Hagen, S., Neves, E. G., Silman, M. R., Tamanaha, E. K., Czarnecki, C. 2014. Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 281(1777), 20132475-20132475. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2475

McMichael, C. H., Bush, M. B., Silman, M. R., Piperno, D. R., Raczka, M., Lobato, L. C., Zimmerman, M., Hagen, S., Palace, M. 2012. Historical fire and bamboo dynamics in western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography. 40(2), 299-309. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12002

Morton, D. C., Le Page, Y., DeFries, R., Collatz, G. J., Hurtt, G. C. 2013. Understorey fire frequency and the fate of burned forests in southern Amazonia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 368(1619), 20120163-20120163. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0163

Morton, D. C., DeFries, R. S., Nagol, J., Souza, C. M., Kasischke, E. S., Hurtt, G. C., Dubayah, R. 2011. Mapping canopy damage from understory fires in Amazon forests using annual time series of Landsat and MODIS data. Remote Sensing of Environment. 115(7), 1706-1720. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2011.03.002

Morton, D. C., Sales, M. H., Souza, C. M., Griscom, B. 2011. Historic emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Mato Grosso, Brazil: 1) source data uncertainties. Carbon Balance and Management. 6(1), 18. DOI: 10.1186/1750-0680-6-18

Mueller, T., Dressler, G., Tucker, C., Pinzon, J., Leimgruber, P., Dubayah, R., Hurtt, G., Bohning-Gaese, K., Fagan, W. 2014. Human Land-Use Practices Lead to Global Long-Term Increases in Photosynthetic Capacity. Remote Sensing. 6(6), 5717-5731. DOI: 10.3390/rs6065717

Negron-Juarez, R., Baker, D. B., Zeng, H., Henkel, T. K., Chambers, J. Q. 2010. Assessing hurricane-induced tree mortality in U.S. Gulf Coast forest ecosystems. Journal of Geophysical Research. 115(G4). DOI: 10.1029/2009JG001221

Negron-Juarez, R., Chambers, J., Hurtt, G., Annane, B., Cocke, S., Powell, M., Stott, M., Goosem, S., Metcalfe, D., Saatchi, S. 2014. Remote Sensing Assessment of Forest Disturbance across Complex Mountainous Terrain: The Pattern and Severity of Impacts of Tropical Cyclone Yasi on Australian Rainforests. Remote Sensing. 6(6), 5633-5649. DOI: 10.3390/rs6065633

Pereira, H. M., Leadley, P. W., Proenca, V., Alkemade, R., Scharlemann, J. P. W., Fernandez-Manjarres, J. F., Araujo, M. B., Balvanera, P., Biggs, R., Cheung, W. W. L., Chini, L., Cooper, H. D., Gilman, E. L., Guenette, S., Hurtt, G. C., Huntington, H. P., Mace, G. M., Oberdorff, T., Revenga, C., Rodrigues, P., Scholes, R. J., Sumaila, U. R., Walpole, M. 2010. Scenarios for Global Biodiversity in the 21st Century. Science. 330(6010), 1496-1501. DOI: 10.1126/science.1196624

Shevliakova, E., Stouffer, R. J., Malyshev, S., Krasting, J. P., Hurtt, G. C., Pacala, S. W. 2013. Historical warming reduced due to enhanced land carbon uptake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110(42), 16730-16735. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1314047110

Thomson, A. M., Calvin, K. V., Chini, L. P., Hurtt, G., Edmonds, J. A., Bond-Lamberty, B., Frolking, S., Wise, M. A., Janetos, A. C. 2010. Climate mitigation and the future of tropical landscapes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107(46), 19633-19638. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910467107

Urrego, D. H., Bush, M. B., Silman, M. R., Niccum, B. A., De La Rosa, P., McMichael, C. H., Hagen, S., Palace, M. 2012. Holocene fires, forest stability and human occupation in south-western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography. 40(3), 521-533. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12016

van Vuuren, D. P., Edmonds, J., Kainuma, M., Riahi, K., Thomson, A., Hibbard, K., Hurtt, G. C., Kram, T., Krey, V., Lamarque, J., Masui, T., Meinshausen, M., Nakicenovic, N., Smith, S. J., Rose, S. K. 2011. The representative concentration pathways: an overview. Climatic Change. 109(1-2), 5-31. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z

Woodhouse, I. H., Mitchard, E. T. A., Brolly, M., Maniatis, D., Ryan, C. M. 2012. Radar backscatter is not a 'direct measure' of forest biomass. Nature Climate Change. 2(8), 556-557. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1601

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

  • The integrated Ecosystem Demography (iED) model: Linking ecological and socio-economic models for improved integrated assessments of climate mitigation   --   (Justin P Fisk, George Hurtt, Yannick le Page, Pralit Patel)   [abstract]
  • Integrating Lidar Canopy Height and Landsat-based Forest Disturbance History with Ecosystem Demography Model for Carbon Change Estimation, A Case in Charles County, Maryland   --   (Maosheng Zhao, Chengquan Huang, George Hurtt, Ralph Dubayah, Justin Fisk, Anu Swatantran, Wenli Huang, Hao Tang)   [abstract]

2013 NASA Terrestrial Ecology Science Team Meeting Poster(s)

  • Modeling the Impacts of Major Forest Disturbances on the Earth's Coupled Carbon-Climate System, and the Capacity of Forests to Meet Future Demands for Wood, Fuel, and Fiber   --   (George Hurtt, Jae Edmonds, Jeffrey Chambers, Steve Frolking, Yannick LePage, Justin Fisk, Louise Chini, Robinson Negron-Juarez, Katelyn Dolan, Steve Flanagan, Qing Ying, Doug Morton, Jim Collatz, Anthony Anthony)   [abstract]

2011 NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop Poster(s)

  • Assessment of hurricane-related disturbances in US forest ecosystems   --   (Robinson Negron-Juarez, Jeffrey Q. Chambers, George Hurtt, Justin Fisk)   [abstract]
  • Sensitivity of Vegetation Structure and Dynamics to Climate Data   --   (Steve Flanagan, George Hurtt, Justin Fisk, Oliver Rourke, Louise Parsons Chini, Amanda Armstrong)   [abstract]
  • Impacts of altered ecosystem disturbance rates on climate change mitigation strategies within an integrated assessment model.   --   (Yannick le Page, George Hurtt, Allison Thomson, Ben Bond-Lamberty, Marshall Wise, Katherine Calvin, Justin Fisk, Jae Edmonds, Anthony C Janetos)   [abstract]
  • iED: Linking ecological and socio-economic models for improved integrated assessments of climate mitigation and adaptation   --   (George Hurtt, Jae Edmonds, Justin Fisk, Ben Bond-Lamberty, Yannick LePage, Louise Chini, Allison Thomson, Ralph Dubayah, Anthony Janetos, Steve Frolking, Doug Morton, Jeff Chambers)   [abstract]
  • Secondary forests from agricultural abandonment in Amazonia   --   (Douglas Morton, Pipa Elias)   [abstract]

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