Robin Thorne


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Heat and drought impact on carbon exchange in an age-sequence of temperate pine forests
M. Altaf Arain, Bing Xu, Jason Brodeur, Myroslava Khomik, Matthias Peichl, Eric Beamesderfer, Natalia Restrepo-Couple, Robin Thorne
Ecological Processes, Volume 11, Issue 1

Most North American temperate forests are plantation or regrowth forests, which are actively managed. These forests are in different stages of their growth cycles and their ability to sequester atmospheric carbon is affected by extreme weather events. In this study, the impact of heat and drought events on carbon sequestration in an age-sequence (80, 45, and 17 years as of 2019) of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) forests in southern Ontario, Canada was examined using eddy covariance flux measurements from 2003 to 2019.Over the 17-year study period, the mean annual values of net ecosystem productivity (NEP) were 180 ± 96, 538 ± 177 and 64 ± 165 g C m-2 yr-1 in the 80-, 45- and 17-year-old stands, respectively, with the highest annual carbon sequestration rate observed in the 45-year-old stand. We found that air temperature (Ta) was the dominant control on NEP in all three different-aged stands and drought, which was a limiting factor for both gross ecosystem productivity (GEP) and ecosystems respiration (RE), had a smaller impact on NEP. However, the simultaneous occurrence of heat and drought events during the early growing seasons or over the consecutive years had a significant negative impact on annual NEP in all three forests. We observed a similar trend of NEP decline in all three stands over three consecutive years that experienced extreme weather events, with 2016 being a hot and dry, 2017 being a dry, and 2018 being a hot year. The youngest stand became a net source of carbon for all three of these years and the oldest stand became a small source of carbon for the first time in 2018 since observations started in 2003. However, in 2019, all three stands reverted to annual net carbon sinks.Our study results indicate that the timing, frequency and concurrent or consecutive occurrence of extreme weather events may have significant implications for carbon sequestration in temperate conifer forests in Eastern North America. This study is one of few globally available to provide long-term observational data on carbon exchanges in different-aged temperate plantation forests. It highlights interannual variability in carbon fluxes and enhances our understanding of the responses of these forest ecosystems to extreme weather events. Study results will help in developing climate resilient and sustainable forestry practices to offset atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and improving simulation of carbon exchange processes in terrestrial ecosystem models.


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Response of Soil CO2 Efflux to Shelterwood Harvesting in a Mature Temperate Pine Forest
Robin Thorne, Myroslava Khomik, Emily Hayman, M. Altaf Arain
Forests, Volume 11, Issue 3

In forest ecosystems, soil CO2 efflux is an important component of ecosystem respiration (RE), which is generally driven by variability in soil temperature and soil moisture. Tree harvesting in forests can alter the soil variables and, consequently, impact soil CO2 efflux. This study investigated the response of total soil CO2 efflux, and its components, to a shelterwood harvesting event of a mature temperate white pine (Pinus strobus L.) forest located in Southern Ontario, Canada. The objective was to explore the response of soil CO2 effluxes to changes in the forest microclimate, such as soil temperature and soil moisture, after shelterwood harvesting removed approximately one-third of the overstory canopy. No significant differences were found in both soil temperature and soil moisture between the pre-harvesting (2008–2011) and post-harvesting (2012–2014) periods. Despite similar soil microclimates, total soil CO2 effluxes were significantly reduced by up to 37%. Soil CO2 effluxes from heterotrophic sources were significantly reduced post-harvesting by approximately 27%, while no significant difference in the mineral-soil horizon sources were measured. An analysis of RE, measured with an eddy covariance tower over the study area, showed an increase post-harvesting. However, the overall net ecosystem carbon exchange showed no significant difference between pre- and post-harvesting. This was due to an increase in the gross ecosystem productivity post-harvesting, compensating for the increased losses (i.e., increased RE). This study highlights the complexities of soil CO2 efflux after a disturbance, such as a harvest. The knowledge gained from this study adds to our understanding of how shelterwood harvesting may influence ecosystem carbon exchange and will be useful for forest managers focused on carbon sequestration and forest conservation.


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Carbon, water and energy exchange dynamics of a young pine plantation forest during the initial fourteen years of growth
Felix C.C. Chan, M. Altaf Arain, Myroslava Khomik, Jason Brodeur, Matthias Peichl, Natalia Restrepo‐Coupe, Robin Thorne, Eric Beamesderfer, Shawn McKenzie, Bing Xu, Holly Croft, M. R. Pejam, Janelle Trant, Michelle Kula, Rachel A. Skubel
Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 410

Abstract This study presents the energy, water, and carbon (C) flux dynamics of a young afforested temperate white pine (Pinus strobus L.) forest in southern Ontario, Canada during the initial fourteen years (2003–2016) of establishment. Energy fluxes, namely, net radiation (Rn), latent heat (LE), and sensible heat (H) flux increased over time, due to canopy development. Annual values of ground heat flux (G) peaked in 2007 and then gradually declined in response to canopy closure. The forest became a consistent C-sink only 5 years after establishment owing in part to low respiratory fluxes from the former agricultural, sandy soils with low residual soil organic matter. Mean annual values of gross ecosystem productivity (GEP), ecosystem respiration (RE), and net ecosystem productivity (NEP) ranged from 494 to 1913, 515 to 1774 and −126 to 216 g C m−2 year−1 respectively, over the study period. Annual evapotranspiration (ET) values ranged from 328 to 429 mm year−1 over the same period. Water use efficiency (WUE) increased with stand age with a mean WUE value of 3.92 g C kg−1 H2O from 2008 to 2016. Multivariable linear regression analysis conducted using observed data suggested that the overall, C and water dynamics of the stand were primarily driven by radiation and temperature, both of which explained 77%, 48%, 28%, and 76% of the variability in GEP, RE, NEP, and ET, respectively. However, late summer droughts, which were prevalent in the region, reduced NEP. The reduction in NEP was enhanced when summer drought events were accompanied by increased heat such as those in 2005, 2012 and 2016. This study contributes to our understanding of the energy, water and C dynamics of afforested temperate conifer plantations and how these forests may respond to changing climate conditions during the crucial initial stage of their life cycle. Our findings also demonstrate the potential of pine plantation stands to sequester atmospheric CO2 in eastern North America.