Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Assessing Terrestrial Biosphere Model Simulation of Ecosystem Drought Response and Recovery
by Kolus, Hannah, M.S., Northern Arizona University, 2017, 66; 10283123
Abstract (Summary)

Severe drought plays a critical role in altering the magnitude and interannual variability of the net terrestrial carbon sink. Drought events immediately decrease net primary production (NPP), and drought length and magnitude tend to enhance this negative impact. However, satellite and in-situ measurements have also indicated that ecosystem recovery from extreme drought can extend several years beyond the return to normal climate conditions. If an ecosystem’s drought recovery time exceeds the time interval between successive droughts, these legacy effects may reinforce the impact of future drought. Since the frequency and severity of extreme climate events are expected to increase with climate change, both the immediate and prolonged impact of drought may contribute to amplified climate warming by decreasing the strength of the land carbon sink. However, it is unknown whether terrestrial biosphere models capture the impact of drought legacy effects on carbon stocks and cycling. Using a suite of twelve land surface models from the Multi-scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP), we assessed model ability to simulate drought legacy effects by analyzing the modeled NPP response to drought events across forested regions of the US and Europe. We found that modeled drought legacy effects last about one year (2% reduction in NPP), with complete NPP recovery in the second post-drought year. Since observations suggest that legacy effects extend up to four years post-drought, with a 9% growth reduction in the first post-drought year, models appear to underestimate both the timescales and magnitude of drought legacy effects. We further explored vegetation sensitivity to climate anomalies through global, time-lagged correlation analysis of NPP and climatic water deficit. Regional differences in the lag time between climate anomaly and NPP response are prevalent, but low sensitivities (correlations) characterize the entire region. Significant correlations coincided with characteristic lag times of 0 to 6 months, indicating relatively immediate NPP response to moisture anomalies. Model ability to accurately simulate vegetation’s response to drought and sensitivity to climate anomalies is necessary in order to produce reliable forecasts of land carbon sink strength and, consequently, to predict the rate at which climate change will progress in the future. Thus, the discrepancies between observed and simulated vegetation recovery from drought points to a potential critical model deficiency.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Huntzinger, Deborah
Commitee: Fisher, Joshua, McKay, Nicholas, Schwalm, Christopher
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: SESES - Environmental Sciences and Policy
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Climate Change, Environmental science
Keywords: Climate change, Drought legacy, Drought recovery, Drought response, Terrestrial biosphere model
Publication Number: 10283123
ISBN: 978-0-355-78005-5
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