Christoforos Pappas


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Snowmelt Water Use at Transpiration Onset: Phenology, Isotope Tracing, and Tree Water Transit Time
Magali F. Nehemy, Jason Maillet, Nia Perron, Christoforos Pappas, Oliver Sonnentag, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Colin P. Laroque, Jeffrey J. McDonnell
Water Resources Research, Volume 58, Issue 9

Studies of tree water source partitioning have primarily focused on the growing season. However, little is yet known about the source of transpiration before, during, and after snowmelt when trees rehydrate and recommence transpiration in the spring. This study investigates tree water use during spring snowmelt following tree's winter stem shrinkage. We document the source of transpiration of three boreal forest tree species—Pinus banksiana, Picea mariana, and Larix laricina—by combining observations of weekly isotopic signatures (δ18O and δ2H) of xylem, soil water, rainfall and snowmelt with measurements of soil moisture dynamics, snow depth and high-resolution temporal measurements of stem radius changes and sap flow. Our data shows that the onset of stem rehydration and transpiration overlaps with snowmelt for evergreens. During rehydration and transpiration onset, xylem water at the canopy reflected a constant pre-melt isotopic signature likely showing late fall conditions. As snowmelt infiltrates the soil and recharges the soil matrix, soil water shows a rapid isotopic shift to depleted-snowmelt water values. While there was an overlap between snowmelt and transpiration timing, xylem and soil water isotopic values did not overlap during transpiration onset. Our data showed 1–2-week delay in the shift in xylem water from pre-melt to clear snowmelt-depleted water signatures in evergreen species. This delay appears to be controlled by tree water transit time that was in the order of 9–18 days. Our study shows that snowmelt is a key source for stem rehydration and transpiration in the boreal forest during spring onset.


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L-band vegetation optical depth as an indicator of plant water potential in a temperate deciduous forest stand
Nataniel Holtzman, Leander D. L. Anderegg, Simon Kraatz, Alex Mavrovic, Oliver Sonnentag, Christoforos Pappas, Michael H. Cosh, Alexandre Langlois, Tarendra Lakhankar, Derek Tesser, N. Steiner, Andreas Colliander, Alexandre Roy, Alexandra G. Konings
Biogeosciences, Volume 18, Issue 2

Abstract. Vegetation optical depth (VOD) retrieved from microwave radiometry correlates with the total amount of water in vegetation, based on theoretical and empirical evidence. Because the total amount of water in vegetation varies with relative water content (as well as with biomass), this correlation further suggests a possible relationship between VOD and plant water potential, a quantity that drives plant hydraulic behavior. Previous studies have found evidence for that relationship on the scale of satellite pixels tens of kilometers across, but these comparisons suffer from significant scaling error. Here we used small-scale remote sensing to test the link between remotely sensed VOD and plant water potential. We placed an L-band radiometer on a tower above the canopy looking down at red oak forest stand during the 2019 growing season in central Massachusetts, United States. We measured stem xylem and leaf water potentials of trees within the stand and retrieved VOD with a single-channel algorithm based on continuous radiometer measurements and measured soil moisture. VOD exhibited a diurnal cycle similar to that of leaf and stem water potential, with a peak at approximately 05:00 eastern daylight time (UTC−4). VOD was also positively correlated with both the measured dielectric constant and water potentials of stem xylem over the growing season. The presence of moisture on the leaves did not affect the observed relationship between VOD and stem water potential. We used our observed VOD–water-potential relationship to estimate stand-level values for a radiative transfer parameter and a plant hydraulic parameter, which compared well with the published literature. Our findings support the use of VOD for plant hydraulic studies in temperate forests.

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Tower‐Based Remote Sensing Reveals Mechanisms Behind a Two‐phased Spring Transition in a Mixed‐Species Boreal Forest
Zoe Pierrat, Magali F. Nehemy, Alexandre Roy, Troy S. Magney, Nicholas C. Parazoo, Colin P. Laroque, Christoforos Pappas, Oliver Sonnentag, Katja Großmann, David R. Bowling, Ulli Seibt, Alexandra Ramirez, Bruce Johnson, Warren Helgason, Alan Barr, Jochen Stutz
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Volume 126, Issue 5

The boreal forest is a major contributor to the global climate system, therefore, reducing uncertainties in how the forest will respond to a changing climate is critical. One source of uncertainty is the timing and drivers of the spring transition. Remote sensing can provide important information on this transition, but persistent foliage greenness, seasonal snow cover, and a high prevalence of mixed forest stands (both deciduous and evergreen species) complicate interpretation of these signals. We collected tower-based remotely sensed data (reflectance-based vegetation indices and Solar-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence [SIF]), stem radius measurements, gross primary productivity, and environmental conditions in a boreal mixed forest stand. Evaluation of this data set shows a two-phased spring transition. The first phase is the reactivation of photosynthesis and transpiration in evergreens, marked by an increase in relative SIF, and is triggered by thawed stems, warm air temperatures, and increased available soil moisture. The second phase is a reduction in bulk photoprotective pigments in evergreens, marked by an increase in the Chlorophyll-Carotenoid Index. Deciduous leaf-out occurs during this phase, marked by an increase in all remotely sensed metrics. The second phase is controlled by soil thaw. Our results demonstrate that remote sensing metrics can be used to detect specific physiological changes in boreal tree species during the spring transition. The two-phased transition explains inconsistencies in remote sensing estimates of the timing and drivers of spring recovery. Our results imply that satellite-based observations will improve by using a combination of vegetation indices and SIF, along with species distribution information.

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A cross-scale framework for integrating multi-source data in Earth system sciences
Yannis Markonis, Christoforos Pappas, Martin Hanel, Simon Michael Papalexiou
Environmental Modelling & Software, Volume 139

Abstract Integration of Earth system data from various sources is a challenging task. Except for their qualitative heterogeneity, different data records exist for describing similar Earth system processes at different spatiotemporal scales. Data inter-comparison and validation are usually performed at a single spatial or temporal scale, which could hamper the identification of potential discrepancies in other scales. Here, we propose a simple, yet efficient, graphical method for synthesizing and comparing observed and modelled data across a range of spatiotemporal scales. Instead of focusing at specific scales, such as annual means or original grid resolution, we examine how their statistical properties change across spatiotemporal continuum. The proposed cross-scale framework for integrating multi-source data in Earth system sciences is already developed as a stand-alone R package that is freely available to download.


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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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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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Assimilate, process and analyse thermal dissipation sap flow data using the TREX <scp>r</scp> package
Richard L. Peters, Christoforos Pappas, Alexander Hurley, Rafael Poyatos, Víctor Flo, Roman Zweifel, W. J. A. Goossens, Kathy Steppe
Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Volume 12, Issue 2

A key ecophysiological measurement is the flow of water (or sap) along the tree's water-transport system, which is an essential process for maintaining the hydraulic connection within the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. The thermal dissipation method (TDM) is widespread in the scientific community for measuring sap flow and has provided novel insights into water use and its environmental sensitivity, from the tree- to the forest-stand level. Yet, methodological approaches to determine sap flux density (SFD) from raw TDM measurements remain case-specific, introducing uncertainties and hampering data syntheses and meta-analyses. Here, we introduce the r package TREX (TRee sap flow EXtractor), incorporating a wide range of sap flow data-processing procedures to quantify SFD from raw TDM measurements. TREX provides functions for (a) importing and assimilating raw measurements, (b) data quality control and filtering and (c) calculating standardized SFD outputs and their associated uncertainties according to different data-processing methods. A case study using a Norway spruce tree illustrates TREX's functionalities, featuring interactive data curation and generating outputs in a reproducible and transparent way. The calculations of SFD in TREX can, for instance, use the original TDM calibration coefficients, user-supplied calibration parameters or calibration data from a recently compiled database of 22 studies and 37 species. Moreover, the package includes an automatic procedure for quantifying the sensitivity and uncertainty of the obtained results to user-defined assumptions and parameter values, by means of a state-of-the-art global sensitivity analysis. Time series of plant ecophysiological measurements are becoming increasingly available and enhance our understanding of climate change impacts on tree functioning. TREX allows for establishing a baseline for data processing of TDM measurements and supports comparability between case studies, facilitating robust, transparent and reproducible large-scale syntheses of sap flow patterns. Moreover, TREX facilitates the simultaneous application of multiple common data-processing approaches to convert raw data to physiological relevant quantities. This allows for robust quantification of the impact (i.e. sensitivity and uncertainty) of user-specific choices and methodological assumptions, which is necessary for process understanding and policy making.


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Minor contribution of overstorey transpiration to landscape evapotranspiration in boreal permafrost peatlands
Rebecca K. Warren, Christoforos Pappas, Manuel Helbig, L. Chasmer, Aaron Berg, Jennifer L. Baltzer, William L. Quinton, Oliver Sonnentag
Ecohydrology, Volume 11, Issue 5

Evapotranspiration (ET) is a key component of the water cycle, whereby accurate partitioning of ET into evaporation and transpiration provides important information about the intrinsically coupled carbon, water, and energy fluxes. Currently, global estimates of partitioned evaporative and transpiration fluxes remain highly uncertain, especially for high‐latitude ecosystems where measurements are scarce. Forested peat plateaus underlain by permafrost and surrounded by permafrost‐free wetlands characterize approximately 60% (7.0 × 107 km2) of Canadian peatlands. In this study, 22 Picea mariana (black spruce) individuals, the most common tree species of the North American boreal forest, were instrumented with sap flow sensors within the footprint of an eddy covariance tower measuring ET from a forest–wetland mosaic landscape. Sap flux density (JS), together with remote sensing data and in situ measurements of canopy structure, was used to upscale tree‐level JS to overstorey transpiration (TBS). Black spruce trees growing in nutrient‐poor permafrost peat soils were found to have lower mean JS than those growing in mineral soils. Overall, TBS contributed less than 1% to landscape ET. Climate‐change‐induced forest loss and the expansion of wetlands may further minimize the contributions of TBS to ET and increase the contribution of standing water.

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Dielectric characterization of vegetation at L band using an open-ended coaxial probe
Alex Mavrovic, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Bilal Filali, F.R. Boone, Christoforos Pappas, Oliver Sonnentag
Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems, Volume 7, Issue 3

Abstract. Decoupling the integrated microwave signal originating from soil and vegetation remains a challenge for all microwave remote sensing applications. To improve satellite and airborne microwave data products in forest environments, a precise and reliable estimation of the relative permittivity (ε=ε′-iε′′) of trees is required. We developed an open-ended coaxial probe suitable for in situ permittivity measurements of tree trunks at L-band frequencies (1–2 GHz). The probe is characterized by uncertainty ratios under 3.3 % for a broad range of relative permittivities (unitless), [2–40] for ε′ and [0.1–20] for ε′′. We quantified the complex number describing the permittivity of seven different tree species in both frozen and thawed states: black spruce, larch, red spruce, balsam fir, red pine, aspen and black cherry. Permittivity variability is substantial and can range up to 300 % for certain species. Our results show that the permittivity of wood is linked to the freeze–thaw state of vegetation and that even short winter thaw events can lead to an increase in vegetation permittivity. The open-ended coaxial probe proved to be precise enough to capture the diurnal cycle of water storage inside the trunk for the length of the growing season.

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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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Quantification of uncertainties in conifer sap flow measured with the thermal dissipation method
Richard L. Peters, Patrick Fonti, David Frank, Rafael Poyatos, Christoforos Pappas, Ansgar Kahmen, Vinicio Carraro, Angela Luisa Prendin, Lea Schneider, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Greg A. Baron‐Gafford, Lars Dietrich, Ingo Heinrich, R. L. Minor, Oliver Sonnentag, Ashley M. Matheny, Maxwell G. Wightman, Kathy Steppe
New Phytologist, Volume 219, Issue 4

Trees play a key role in the global hydrological cycle and measurements performed with the thermal dissipation method (TDM) have been crucial in providing whole-tree water-use estimates. Yet, different data processing to calculate whole-tree water use encapsulates uncertainties that have not been systematically assessed. We quantified uncertainties in conifer sap flux density (Fd ) and stand water use caused by commonly applied methods for deriving zero-flow conditions, dampening and sensor calibration. Their contribution has been assessed using a stem segment calibration experiment and 4 yr of TDM measurements in Picea abies and Larix decidua growing in contrasting environments. Uncertainties were then projected on TDM data from different conifers across the northern hemisphere. Commonly applied methods mostly underestimated absolute Fd . Lacking a site- and species-specific calibrations reduced our stand water-use measurements by 37% and induced uncertainty in northern hemisphere Fd . Additionally, although the interdaily variability was maintained, disregarding dampening and/or applying zero-flow conditions that ignored night-time water use reduced the correlation between environment and Fd . The presented ensemble of calibration curves and proposed dampening correction, together with the systematic quantification of data-processing uncertainties, provide crucial steps in improving whole-tree water-use estimates across spatial and temporal scales.