Alan G. Barr


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Increasing contribution of peatlands to boreal evapotranspiration in a warming climate
Manuel Helbig, J. M. Waddington, Pavel Alekseychik, B.D. Amiro, Mika Aurela, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Peter D. Blanken, Sean K. Carey, Jiquan Chen, Jinshu Chi, Ankur R. Desai, Allison L. Dunn, Eugénie Euskirchen, Lawrence B. Flanagan, Inke Forbrich, Thomas Friborg, Achim Grelle, Silvie Harder, Michal Heliasz, Elyn Humphreys, Hiroki Ikawa, Pierre‐Érik Isabelle, Hiroyasu Iwata, Rachhpal S. Jassal, Mika Korkiakoski, Juliya Kurbatova, Lars Kutzbach, Anders Lindroth, Mikaell Ottosson Löfvenius, Annalea Lohila, Ivan Mammarella, Philip Marsh, Trofim C. Maximov, Joe R. Melton, Paul A. Moore, Daniel F. Nadeau, Erin M. Nicholls, Mats Nilsson, Takeshi Ohta, Matthias Peichl, Richard M. Petrone, Roman E. Petrov, Anatoly Prokushkin, William L. Quinton, David E. Reed, Nigel T. Roulet, Benjamin R. K. Runkle, Oliver Sonnentag, I. B. Strachan, Pierre Taillardat, Eeva‐Stiina Tuittila, Juha‐Pekka Tuovinen, J. Turner, Masahito Ueyama, Andrej Varlagin, Martin Wilmking, Steven C. Wofsy, Vyacheslav Zyrianov
Nature Climate Change, Volume 10, Issue 6

The response of evapotranspiration (ET) to warming is of critical importance to the water and carbon cycle of the boreal biome, a mosaic of land cover types dominated by forests and peatlands. The effect of warming-induced vapour pressure deficit (VPD) increases on boreal ET remains poorly understood because peatlands are not specifically represented as plant functional types in Earth system models. Here we show that peatland ET increases more than forest ET with increasing VPD using observations from 95 eddy covariance tower sites. At high VPD of more than 2 kPa, peatland ET exceeds forest ET by up to 30%. Future (2091–2100) mid-growing season peatland ET is estimated to exceed forest ET by over 20% in about one-third of the boreal biome for RCP4.5 and about two-thirds for RCP8.5. Peatland-specific ET responses to VPD should therefore be included in Earth system models to avoid biases in water and carbon cycle projections.

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Aboveground tree growth is a minor and decoupled fraction of boreal forest carbon input
Christoforos Pappas, Jason Maillet, Sharon Rakowski, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Simone Fatichi, Colin P. Laroque, Ashley M. Matheny, Alexandre Roy, Oliver Sonnentag, Tianshan Zha
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 290

• We reconstructed time series of boreal tree growth with a biometric approach. • Aboveground tree growth was a minor and decoupled fraction of carbon input. • Partitioned estimates of tree carbon sink are valuable observational constraints. • Such observational constraints can be used for model validation and policy making. The boreal biome accounts for approximately one third of the terrestrial carbon (C) sink. However, estimates of its individual C pools remain uncertain. Here, focusing on the southern boreal forest, we quantified the magnitude and temporal dynamics of C allocation to aboveground tree growth at a mature black spruce ( Picea mariana )-dominated forest stand in Saskatchewan, Canada. We reconstructed aboveground tree biomass increments (AGBi) using a biometric approach, i.e., species-specific allometry combined with forest stand characteristics and tree ring widths collected with a C-oriented sampling design. We explored the links between boreal tree growth and ecosystem C input by comparing AGBi with eddy-covariance-derived ecosystem C fluxes from 1999 to 2015 and we synthesized our findings with a refined meta-analysis of published values of boreal forest C use efficiency (CUE). Mean AGBi at the study site was decoupled from ecosystem C input and equal to 71 ± 7 g C m –2 (1999–2015), which is only a minor fraction of gross ecosystem production (GEP; i.e., AGBi / GEP ≈ 9 %). Moreover, C allocation to AGBi remained stable over time (AGBi / GEP; –0.0001 yr –1 ; p -value=0.775), contrary to significant trends in GEP (+5.72 g C m –2 yr –2 ; p -value=0.02) and CUE (–0.0041 yr –1 , p -value=0.007). CUE was estimated as 0.50 ± 0.03 at the study area and 0.41 ± 0.12 across the reviewed boreal forests. These findings highlight the importance of belowground tree C investments, together with the substantial contribution of understory, ground cover and soil to the boreal forest C balance. Our quantitative insights into the dynamics of aboveground boreal tree C allocation offer additional observational constraints for terrestrial ecosystem models that are often biased in converting C input to biomass, and can guide forest-management strategies for mitigating carbon dioxide emissions.

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The biophysical climate mitigation potential of boreal peatlands during the growing season
Manuel Helbig, J. M. Waddington, Pavel Alekseychik, B.D. Amiro, Mika Aurela, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Sean K. Carey, Jiquan Chen, Jinshu Chi, Ankur R. Desai, Allison L. Dunn, Eugénie Euskirchen, Lawrence B. Flanagan, Thomas Friborg, Michelle Garneau, Achim Grelle, Silvie Harder, Michal Heliasz, Elyn Humphreys, Hiroki Ikawa, Pierre‐Érik Isabelle, Hiroyasu Iwata, Rachhpal S. Jassal, Mika Korkiakoski, Juliya Kurbatova, Lars Kutzbach, Е. Д. Лапшина, Anders Lindroth, Mikaell Ottosson Löfvenius, Annalea Lohila, Ivan Mammarella, Philip Marsh, Paul A. Moore, Trofim C. Maximov, Daniel F. Nadeau, Erin M. Nicholls, Mats Nilsson, Takeshi Ohta, Matthias Peichl, Richard M. Petrone, Anatoly Prokushkin, William L. Quinton, Nigel T. Roulet, Benjamin R. K. Runkle, Oliver Sonnentag, I. B. Strachan, Pierre Taillardat, Eeva‐Stiina Tuittila, Juha‐Pekka Tuovinen, J. Turner, Masahito Ueyama, Andrej Varlagin, Timo Vesala, Martin Wilmking, Vyacheslav Zyrianov, Christopher Schulze
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 15, Issue 10

Peatlands and forests cover large areas of the boreal biome and are critical for global climate regulation. They also regulate regional climate through heat and water vapour exchange with the atmosphere. Understanding how land-atmosphere interactions in peatlands differ from forests may therefore be crucial for modelling boreal climate system dynamics and for assessing climate benefits of peatland conservation and restoration. To assess the biophysical impacts of peatlands and forests on peak growing season air temperature and humidity, we analysed surface energy fluxes and albedo from 35 peatlands and 37 evergreen needleleaf forests - the dominant boreal forest type - and simulated air temperature and vapour pressure deficit (VPD) over hypothetical homogeneous peatland and forest landscapes. We ran an evapotranspiration model using land surface parameters derived from energy flux observations and coupled an analytical solution for the surface energy balance to an atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) model. We found that peatlands, compared to forests, are characterized by higher growing season albedo, lower aerodynamic conductance, and higher surface conductance for an equivalent VPD. This combination of peatland surface properties results in a ∼20% decrease in afternoon ABL height, a cooling (from 1.7 to 2.5 °C) in afternoon air temperatures, and a decrease in afternoon VPD (from 0.4 to 0.7 kPa) for peatland landscapes compared to forest landscapes. These biophysical climate impacts of peatlands are most pronounced at lower latitudes (∼45°N) and decrease toward the northern limit of the boreal biome (∼70°N). Thus, boreal peatlands have the potential to mitigate the effect of regional climate warming during the growing season. The biophysical climate mitigation potential of peatlands needs to be accounted for when projecting the future climate of the boreal biome, when assessing the climate benefits of conserving pristine boreal peatlands, and when restoring peatlands that have experienced peatland drainage and mining. © 2020 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. (Less)

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L-Band response to freeze/thaw in a boreal forest stand from ground- and tower-based radiometer observations
Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Alex Mavrovic, Christoforos Pappas, A. Royer, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, Tracy Rowlandson, Mariam El-Amine, Alan G. Barr, Andrew Black, Alexandre Langlois, Oliver Sonnentag
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 237

Abstract The extent, timing and duration of seasonal freeze/thaw (FT) state exerts dominant control on boreal forest carbon, water and energy cycle processes. Recent and on-going L-Band (≈1.4 GHz) spaceborne missions have the potential to provide enhanced information on FT state over large geographic regions with rapid revisit time. However, the low spatial resolution of these spaceborne observations (≈45 km) makes it difficult to isolate the primary contributions (soil, vegetation, snow) to the FT signal in boreal forest. To better quantify these controls, two L-Band radiometers were deployed (September 2016 to July 2017) at a black spruce (Picea mariana) dominated boreal forest site; one unit above and one unit on the ground surface below the canopy to disentangle the microwave contributions of overstory canopy, and the ground surface on the FT brightness temperature (TB) signal. Bi-weekly multi-angular measurements from both units were combined in order to estimate effective scattering albedo (ω) and the microwave vegetative optical depth (τ), using the τ-ω microwave vegetation radiative transfer model. Soil moisture probes were inserted in the trunk of two black spruce and one larch (Larix laricina) trunks located in the footprint of the above-canopy radiometer to measure tree trunk relative dielectric constant (RDCtree). Results showed a strong relationship between RDCtree and tree skin temperature (Ttree) under freezing temperature conditions, which led to a gradual decrease of τ in winter. During the spring thawing period in April and May, τ remained relatively stable. In contrast, it increased substantially in June, most likely in relation to the growing season onset. Overall, τ was related to the seasonal RDCtree cycle (r = 0.76). Regarding ω, a value of 0.086 (±0.029) was obtained, but no dependency on Ttree or RDCtree was observed. Despite the observed impact of FT on vegetation L-Band signals, results from continuous TB observations spanning from 14 September 2016 to 25 May 2017, indicated that the main contribution to the observed L-Band TB freeze-up signal in the fall originated from the ground surface. The above-canopy unit showed some sensitivity to overstory canopy FT, yet the sensitivity was lower compared to the signal induced by the ground FT. In April and May, L-Band radiometer FT retrieval agreed closely to the melt onset detection using RDCtree but it was likely related to the coincident presence of liquid water in the snow. Our findings have important applications to L-Band spaceborne FT algorithm development and validation across the boreal forest. More specifically, our findings allow better quantification of the potential effect of frozen ground on various biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes in boreal forests.


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Controls on evapotranspiration from jack pine forests in the Boreal Plains Ecozone
Mahtab Nazarbakhsh, A. M. Ireson, Alan G. Barr
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 4

The exchanges of water, energy and carbon between the land surface and the atmosphere are tightly coupled, so that errors in simulating evapotranspiration lead to errors in simulating both the water and carbon balances. Areas with seasonally frozen soils present a particular challenge due to the snowmelt‐dominated hydrology and the impact of soil freezing on the soil hydraulic properties and plant root water uptake. Land surface schemes that have been applied in high latitudes often have reported problems with simulating the snowpack and runoff. Models applied at the Boreal Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Sites in central Saskatchewan have consistently over‐predicted evapotranspiration as compared with flux tower estimates. We assessed the performance of two Canadian land surface schemes (CLASS and CLASS‐CTEM) for simulating point‐scale evapotranspiration at an instrumented jack pine sandy upland site in the southern edge of the boreal forest in Saskatchewan, Canada. Consistent with past reported results, these models over‐predicted evapotranspiration, as compared with flux tower observations, but only in the spring period. Looking systematically at soil properties and vegetation characteristics, we found that the dominant control on evapotranspiration within these models was the canopy conductance. However, the problem of excessive spring ET could not be solved satisfactorily by changing the soil or vegetation parameters. The model overestimation of spring ET coincided with the overestimation of spring soil liquid water content. Improved algorithms for the infiltration of snowmelt into frozen soils and plant‐water uptake during the snowmelt and soil thaw periods may be key to addressing the biases in spring ET.


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Boreal tree hydrodynamics: asynchronous, diverging, yet complementary
Christoforos Pappas, Ashley M. Matheny, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Gil Bohrer, Matteo Detto, Jason Maillet, Alexandre Roy, Oliver Sonnentag, Jilmarie Stephens
Tree Physiology, Volume 38, Issue 7

Water stress has been identified as a key mechanism of the contemporary increase in tree mortality rates in northwestern North America. However, a detailed analysis of boreal tree hydrodynamics and their interspecific differences is still lacking. Here we examine the hydraulic behaviour of co-occurring larch (Larix laricina) and black spruce (Picea mariana), two characteristic boreal tree species, near the southern limit of the boreal ecozone in central Canada. Sap flux density (Js), concurrently recorded stem radius fluctuations and meteorological conditions are used to quantify tree hydraulic functioning and to scrutinize tree water-use strategies. Our analysis revealed asynchrony in the diel hydrodynamics of the two species with the initial rise in Js occurring 2 h earlier in larch than in black spruce. Interspecific differences in larch and black spruce crown architecture explained the observed asynchrony in their hydraulic functioning. Furthermore, the two species exhibited diverging stomatal regulation strategies with larch and black spruce employing relatively isohydric and anisohydric behaviour, respectively. Such asynchronous and diverging tree-level hydrodynamics provide new insights into the ecosystem-level complementarity in tree form and function, with implications for understanding boreal forests' water and carbon dynamics and their resilience to environmental stress.


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A novel stochastic method for reconstructing daily precipitation times-series using tree-ring data from the western Canadian Boreal Forest
Kwok Pan Chun, Steven D. Mamet, Juha M. Metsaranta, Alan G. Barr, Jill F. Johnstone, H. S. Wheater
Dendrochronologia, Volume 44

Abstract Tree ring data provide proxy records of historical hydroclimatic conditions that are widely used for reconstructing precipitation time series. Most previous applications are limited to annual time scales, though information about daily precipitation would enable a range of additional analyses of environmental processes to be investigated and modelled. We used statistical downscaling to simulate stochastic daily precipitation ensembles using dendrochronological data from the western Canadian boreal forest. The simulated precipitation series were generally consistent with observed precipitation data, though reconstructions were poorly constrained during short periods of forest pest outbreaks. The proposed multiple temporal scale precipitation reconstruction can generate annual daily maxima and persistent monthly wet and dry episodes, so that the observed and simulated ensembles have similar precipitation characteristics (i.e. magnitude, peak, and duration)—an improvement on previous modelling studies. We discuss how ecological disturbances may limit reconstructions by inducing non-linear responses in tree growth, and conclude with suggestions of possible applications and further development of downscaling methods for dendrochronological data.