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      Effects of climate extremes on the terrestrial carbon cycle: concepts, processes and potential future impacts


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          Extreme droughts, heat waves, frosts, precipitation, wind storms and other climate extremes may impact the structure, composition and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, and thus carbon cycling and its feedbacks to the climate system. Yet, the interconnected avenues through which climate extremes drive ecological and physiological processes and alter the carbon balance are poorly understood. Here, we review the literature on carbon cycle relevant responses of ecosystems to extreme climatic events. Given that impacts of climate extremes are considered disturbances, we assume the respective general disturbance-induced mechanisms and processes to also operate in an extreme context. The paucity of well-defined studies currently renders a quantitative meta-analysis impossible, but permits us to develop a deductive framework for identifying the main mechanisms (and coupling thereof) through which climate extremes may act on the carbon cycle. We find that ecosystem responses can exceed the duration of the climate impacts via lagged effects on the carbon cycle. The expected regional impacts of future climate extremes will depend on changes in the probability and severity of their occurrence, on the compound effects and timing of different climate extremes, and on the vulnerability of each land-cover type modulated by management. Although processes and sensitivities differ among biomes, based on expert opinion, we expect forests to exhibit the largest net effect of extremes due to their large carbon pools and fluxes, potentially large indirect and lagged impacts, and long recovery time to regain previous stocks. At the global scale, we presume that droughts have the strongest and most widespread effects on terrestrial carbon cycling. Comparing impacts of climate extremes identified via remote sensing vs. ground-based observational case studies reveals that many regions in the (sub-)tropics are understudied. Hence, regional investigations are needed to allow a global upscaling of the impacts of climate extremes on global carbon–climate feedbacks.

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          Regional vegetation die-off in response to global-change-type drought.

          Future drought is projected to occur under warmer temperature conditions as climate change progresses, referred to here as global-change-type drought, yet quantitative assessments of the triggers and potential extent of drought-induced vegetation die-off remain pivotal uncertainties in assessing climate-change impacts. Of particular concern is regional-scale mortality of overstory trees, which rapidly alters ecosystem type, associated ecosystem properties, and land surface conditions for decades. Here, we quantify regional-scale vegetation die-off across southwestern North American woodlands in 2002-2003 in response to drought and associated bark beetle infestations. At an intensively studied site within the region, we quantified that after 15 months of depleted soil water content, >90% of the dominant, overstory tree species (Pinus edulis, a piñon) died. The die-off was reflected in changes in a remotely sensed index of vegetation greenness (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), not only at the intensively studied site but also across the region, extending over 12,000 km2 or more; aerial and field surveys confirmed the general extent of the die-off. Notably, the recent drought was warmer than the previous subcontinental drought of the 1950s. The limited, available observations suggest that die-off from the recent drought was more extensive than that from the previous drought, extending into wetter sites within the tree species' distribution. Our results quantify a trigger leading to rapid, drought-induced die-off of overstory woody plants at subcontinental scale and highlight the potential for such die-off to be more severe and extensive for future global-change-type drought under warmer conditions.
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            Land-atmosphere coupling and climate change in Europe.

            Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to enhance the interannual variability of summer climate in Europe and other mid-latitude regions, potentially causing more frequent heatwaves. Climate models consistently predict an increase in the variability of summer temperatures in these areas, but the underlying mechanisms responsible for this increase remain uncertain. Here we explore these mechanisms using regional simulations of recent and future climatic conditions with and without land-atmosphere interactions. Our results indicate that the increase in summer temperature variability predicted in central and eastern Europe is mainly due to feedbacks between the land surface and the atmosphere. Furthermore, they suggest that land-atmosphere interactions increase climate variability in this region because climatic regimes in Europe shift northwards in response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, creating a new transitional climate zone with strong land-atmosphere coupling in central and eastern Europe. These findings emphasize the importance of soil-moisture-temperature feedbacks (in addition to soil-moisture-precipitation feedbacks) in influencing summer climate variability and the potential migration of climate zones with strong land-atmosphere coupling as a consequence of global warming. This highlights the crucial role of land-atmosphere interactions in future climate change.
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              Effects of fire on properties of forest soils: a review.

              Many physical, chemical, mineralogical, and biological soil properties can be affected by forest fires. The effects are chiefly a result of burn severity, which consists of peak temperatures and duration of the fire. Climate, vegetation, and topography of the burnt area control the resilience of the soil system; some fire-induced changes can even be permanent. Low to moderate severity fires, such as most of those prescribed in forest management, promote renovation of the dominant vegetation through elimination of undesired species and transient increase of pH and available nutrients. No irreversible ecosystem change occurs, but the enhancement of hydrophobicity can render the soil less able to soak up water and more prone to erosion. Severe fires, such as wildfires, generally have several negative effects on soil. They cause significant removal of organic matter, deterioration of both structure and porosity, considerable loss of nutrients through volatilisation, ash entrapment in smoke columns, leaching and erosion, and marked alteration of both quantity and specific composition of microbial and soil-dwelling invertebrate communities. However, despite common perceptions, if plants succeed in promptly recolonising the burnt area, the pre-fire level of most properties can be recovered and even enhanced. This work is a review of the up-to-date literature dealing with changes imposed by fires on properties of forest soils. Ecological implications of these changes are described.

                Author and article information

                Glob Chang Biol
                Glob Chang Biol
                Global Change Biology
                John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (Chichester, UK )
                August 2015
                12 May 2015
                : 21
                : 8
                : 2861-2880
                [1 ]Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry 07745, Jena, Germany
                [2 ]Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck 6020, Innsbruck, Austria
                [3 ]Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) e.V. 14773, Potsdam, Germany
                [4 ]Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB) 14195, Berlin, Germany
                [5 ]Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL 8903, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
                [6 ]Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern CH-3012, Bern, Switzerland
                [7 ]Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK
                [8 ]Ecosystems Services and Management Program, International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) A-2361, Laxenburg, Austria
                [9 ]Research Group of Plant and Vegetation Ecology, Biology Department, University of Antwerp Wilrijk, Belgium
                [10 ]Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, The University of Arizona 1215 E Lowell St, Tucson, AZ, 85721, USA
                [11 ]Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES), Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University 10691, Stockholm, Sweden
                [12 ]ETH Zurich 8092, Zurich, Switzerland
                [13 ]Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship GPO Box 3023, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia
                [14 ]IPSL – Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement CEA-CNRS-UVSQ 91191, Gif sur Yvette, France
                [15 ]Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE), Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon Université Aix-en-Provence, France
                [16 ]Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DTU) Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000, Roskilde, Denmark
                [17 ]IBIMET-CNR Via Caproni, 8, 50145, Firenze, Italy
                [18 ]FoxLab, Fondazione E.Mach Via Mach 1, 30158, San Michele a/Adige, Trento, Italy
                [19 ]Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam 14476, Potsdam, Germany
                [20 ]Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre For Geosciences 14473, Potsdam, Germany
                [21 ]Forest Ecology and Restoration Group, Universidad de Alcalá Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Dorothea Frank, tel. + 49 3641 576284, fax + 49 3641 577200, e-mail: dfrank@ 123456bgc-jena.mpg.de

                Present address: Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre, European Commission Via E. Fermi 2749, I-21027, Ispra, VA, Italy

                © 2015 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 06 September 2013
                : 24 January 2015
                Research Reviews

                carbon cycle,climate change,climate extremes,climate variability,disturbance,terrestrial ecosystems


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