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US Forest Service
Country: United States
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6 Projects, page 1 of 2
  • Project . 1981 - 1983
    Funder: NSF Project Code: 8111490
    Partners: USFS
  • Funder: NSF Project Code: 9123894
    Partners: USFS
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H000909/1
    Funder Contribution: 56,961 GBP
    Partners: USFS, KCL, UCB

    Human activities are causing atmospheric carbon dioxide to rise and as a consequence our planet's climate is changing. Forests exert huge influence over the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and northern hemisphere forests currently store nearly half of the CO2 released by anthropogenic emissions each year. Whether forests will continue to act as a net sink for some of the CO2 released by anthropogenic emissions is uncertain and depends upon numerous factors such as future land use change, climate regimes and forest disturbance rates. Over the last ten years, an outbreak of bark beetle has covered approximately 47 million hectares of forest in North America, resulting in widespread tree mortality. The huge loss of green leaf area is clearly visible from satellite imagery and has a direct impact on carbon dioxide uptake. It is likely that forests in the region will become a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as respiration becomes dominant over photosynthesis. Carbon from plants is the source for microbial respiration in soil; some of this carbon is older decaying material but some is from recent photosynthesis. The relative contribution of each carbon source in healthy forests is unclear, and less clear is whether these contributions will change after a significant mortality event accompanied by large quantities of decaying dead plant material. This proposed research will improve our understanding of the capacity of forests to continue to absorb anthropogenic emissions after large scale disturbances though an intensive study of an outbreak of mountain pine beetle in Colorado, USA. Mountain bark beetle has progressively infected Pinus ponderosa trees at Fraser Experiment Forest (FEF) over the past five years. In 2004, 48 forest survey plots were established in FEF where detailed measurements of the stand structure and carbon pools and fluxes were carried out from 2004 through 2006. Since the establishment of these plots approximately 30% have been infected by mountain pine beetle (MPB), and in 2010, these plots will represent a 5 year chronosequence of MPB infection. I propose to measure soil efflux, microbial biomass and labile and older carbon. This will allow me to determine the magnitude and dyanmics of any decline in soil efflux caused by the MPB infection while controlling for variation in stand properties which were estimated previously. As part of different research efforts at Niwot Ridge in 2002, 2003 and 2008, selected trees were killed by removing phloem from the trunk at 1.3m above the ground. This process (girdling) cuts off the transport of carbohydrates below ground and over a period of a year kills the tree, mimicking the effects of bark beetle. Before, and for 1-2 years immediately after girdling, soil efflux, microbial biomass and labile and older carbon pools were measured. I propose to repeat these measurements over a two week period in July 2010 in the girdled plots and the associated (non-girdled) reference plots. These measurements be used to parameterize a simple ecosystem model which has been modified to make use of soil efflux, labile carbon pool measurements and estimates of microbial biomass. Predictions of carbon exchange at FEF for the period 2005 through 2010 will be compared to direct observations. By comparing different representations of the model I will test different ways of representing the below ground component of carbon cycling. This research will directly quantify the effect of disease outbreak and tree mortality on belowground carbon cycling in high elevation forests; provide insight into the poorly understood process of belowground carbon cycling; thus improving projections of carbon sequestration by these forest ecosystems under changing climate scenarios. More broadly, this research fits centrally into the emerging needs for understanding carbon-climate relationships and the potential effects of future climate on ecosystem health and function.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/T001194/1
    Funder Contribution: 527,201 GBP
    Partners: Swansea University, USFS, Met Office, FORESTRY COMMISSION RESEARCH AGENCY, Forestry Commission England, Natural Resources Wales, South Wales Fire & Rescue Service

    Wildfires are a natural phenomenon in many regions of the world (e.g. the boreal and temperate North America or the Mediterranean Basin) but, in others (e.g. Atlantic Europe), they are mostly human-caused. Irrespective of their origin, wildfires burn, on average, an area equivalent to about 20 times the size of the UK every year. When they burn through populated areas they can be deadly. For example, in 2018, they resulted in 100 deaths in Greece, 99 in Portugal, and 104 in California alone. In the UK, fires have to date rarely resulted in losses of life but, on average, ~£55M are spent annually in wildfire responses and they have threatened infrastructures and communities (e.g. several wildfires last summer led to evacuations). A combination of climate and land use changes is already increasing wildfire risk in many areas, both inside and outside the UK, and this trend is expected to worsen. In order to develop more effective tools for mitigating and fighting extreme wildfires, we need to advance our ability to understand, predict and, where possible, control fire behaviour. In this project we aim to improve understanding and mitigation of wildland fire by advancing wildfire behaviour model capabilities through the development of new automated methods (algorithms) to implement, for the first time, ground-breaking real 3D fuel data into physics-based wildfire behaviour models. These models are the most advanced in terms of their ability to forecast fire behaviour, but they remain constrained by the lack of detailed fuel input information to work with (i.e. the amount and structure of live and dead vegetation susceptible to burn). The advancement we aim to deliver will provide a step-change in physical fire modelling capabilities. The new algorithms will be implemented in the powerful fuel models FUEL3D and STANDFIRE, which provide fuels inputs for the physics-based fire behaviour models FIRETEC and WFDS. We will apply these to forest stands that typify some of the most common flammable conifer forests in the UK, NW Europe and North America. The algorithms produced will be made publicly available and, therefore, can be adapted and applied to many other forest types around the world. Three-dimensional fuel datasets will be acquired in field campaigns using a range of state-of-the-art laser scanning (terrestrial, wearable and aerial UAV-based laser scanners) and 'Structure from Motion' methods, with traditional fuel inventory measurements being carried out for comparison and model validation. Our case studies will focus on conifer stands in England, Scotland, Wales and the US. In the UK, conifer forests comprise half of the UK's 3.2 Mill. ha of forested land, and they have the greatest potential for crown fires, which spread along treetops and are the most dangerous and challenging to fight. In the US, the work will include real forest fires, carried out for research purposes, which will provide valuable fire behaviour and fuel consumption datasets to validate the improved fuel and fire models. Fire behaviour depends on weather, topography, and on the type and amount of vegetation fuels, with the latter being the only factor that can be meaningfully influenced through management efforts. By managing fuels, we can reduce the risk of extreme fire behaviour and its impacts. Our project provides a novel approach for designing and testing of 'virtual fuel treatments' aimed at decreasing fuel hazard and, thus, fire risk, under current and predicted future climatic and land use scenarios. The involvement of key UK end-users (Forestry Commission, Met Office, Natural Resources Wales and South Wales Fire & Rescue Service) as partners will maximise the applicability and impact of the project's outputs. The novel 3D fuel data and algorithms will also present a major advance for other forestry applications (e.g. forestry inventory, timber forecasting, forest carbon budgeting, ecosystem services assessment).