Disturbance impacts on land surface temperature and gross primary productivity in the western United States

L. Annie Cooper, Ashley P. Ballantyne, Zachary A. Holden, Erin L. Landguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Forest disturbances influence forest structure, composition, and function and may impact climate through changes in net radiation or through shifts in carbon exchange. Climate impacts vary depending on environmental variables and disturbance characteristics, yet few studies have investigated disturbance impacts over large, environmentally heterogeneous, regions. We used satellite data to objectively determine the impacts of fire, bark beetles, defoliators, and “unidentified disturbances” (UDs) on land surface temperature (LST) and gross primary productivity (GPP) across the western United States (U.S.). We investigated immediate disturbance impacts, the drivers of those impacts, and long-term postdisturbance LST and GPP recovery patterns. All disturbance types caused LST increases (°C; fire: 3.45 ± 3.02, bark beetles: 0.76 ± 3.04, defoliators: 0.49 ± 3.12, and UD: 0.76 ± 3.03). Fire and insects resulted in GPP declines (%; fire: −25.05 ± 21.67, bark beetles: −2.84 ± 21.06, defoliators: −0.23 ± 15.40), while UDs resulted in slightly enhanced GPP (1.89 ± 24.20%). Disturbance responses also varied between ecoregions. Severity and interannual changes in air temperature were the primary drivers of short-term disturbance responses, and severity also had a strong impact on long-term recovery patterns. These results suggest a potential climate feedback due to disturbance-induced biophysical changes that may strengthen as disturbance regimes shift due to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)930-946
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • GPP
  • LST
  • disturbance
  • forest
  • mountain pine beetle


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