Radiative forcing of natural forest disturbances

Thomas L. O'Halloran, Beverly E. Law, Michael L. Goulden, Zhuosen Wang, Jordan G. Barr, Crystal Schaaf, Mathew Brown, José D. Fuentes, Mathias Göckede, Andrew Black, Vic Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations

Abstract

Forest disturbances are major sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and therefore impact global climate. Biogeophysical attributes, such as surface albedo (reflectivity), further control the climate-regulating properties of forests. Using both tower-based and remotely sensed data sets, we show that natural disturbances from wildfire, beetle outbreaks, and hurricane wind throw can significantly alter surface albedo, and the associated radiative forcing either offsets or enhances the CO 2 forcing caused by reducing ecosystem carbon sequestration over multiple years. In the examined cases, the radiative forcing from albedo change is on the same order of magnitude as the CO 2 forcing. The net radiative forcing resulting from these two factors leads to a local heating effect in a hurricane-damaged mangrove forest in the subtropics, and a cooling effect following wildfire and mountain pine beetle attack in boreal forests with winter snow. Although natural forest disturbances currently represent less than half of gross forest cover loss, that area will probably increase in the future under climate change, making it imperative to represent these processes accurately in global climate models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-565
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Radiative forcing of natural forest disturbances'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this