The Impacts of Climate and Wildfire on Ecosystem Gross Primary Productivity in Alaska

Nima Madani, Nicholas C. Parazoo, John S. Kimball, Rolf H. Reichle, Abhishek Chatterjee, Jennifer D. Watts, Sassan Saatchi, Zhihua Liu, Arthur Endsley, Torbern Tagesson, Brendan M. Rogers, Liang Xu, Jonathan A. Wang, Troy Magney, Charles E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The increase in wildfire occurrence and severity seen over the past decades in the boreal and Arctic biomes is expected to continue in the future in response to rapid climate change in this region. Recent studies documented positive trends in gross primary productivity (GPP) for Arctic boreal biomes driven by warming, but it is unclear how GPP trends are affected by wildfires. Here, we used satellite vegetation observations and environmental data with a diagnostic GPP model to analyze recovery from large fires in Alaska over the period 2000–2019. We confirmed earlier findings that warmer-than-average years provide favorable climate conditions for vegetation growth, leading to a GPP increase of 1 Tg C yr−1, contributed mainly from enhanced productivity in the early growing season. However, higher temperatures increase the risk of wildfire occurrence leading to direct carbon loss over a period of 1–3 years. While mortality related to severe wildfires reduce ecosystem productivity, post-fire productivity in moderately burned areas shows a significant positive trend. The rapid GPP recovery following fires reported here might be favorable for maintaining the region's net carbon sink, but wildfires can indirectly promote the release of long-term stored carbon in the permafrost. With the projected increase in severity and frequency of wildfires in the future, we expect a reduction of GPP and therefore amplification of climate warming in this region.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JG006078
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume126
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Alaska
  • GPP
  • carbon dynamics
  • remote sensing
  • wildfire

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