Scientific Reports, Volume 9, Issue 1

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
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Severe wildfire exposes remnant peat carbon stocks to increased post-fire drying
Nicholas Kettridge | Max Lukenbach | Kelly Hokanson | K. J. Devito | Richard M. Petrone | Carl Mendoza | J. M. Waddington

The potential of high severity wildfires to increase global terrestrial carbon emissions and exacerbate future climatic warming is of international concern. Nowhere is this more prevalent than within high latitude regions where peatlands have, over millennia, accumulated legacy carbon stocks comparable to all human CO2 emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Drying increases rates of peat decomposition and associated atmospheric and aquatic carbon emissions. The degree to which severe wildfires enhance drying under future climates and induce instability in peatland ecological communities and carbon stocks is unknown. Here we show that high burn severities increased post-fire evapotranspiration by 410% within a feather moss peatland by burning through the protective capping layer that restricts evaporative drying in response to low severity burns. High burn severities projected under future climates will therefore leave peatlands that dominate dry sub-humid regions across the boreal, on the edge of their climatic envelopes, more vulnerable to intense post-fire drying, inducing high rates of carbon loss to the atmosphere that amplify the direct combustion emissions.

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Identifying Climate-Induced Groundwater Depletion in GRACE Observations
Brian F. Thomas | J. S. Famiglietti

Depletion of groundwater resources has been identified in numerous global aquifers, suggesting that extractions have exceeded natural recharge rates in critically important global freshwater supplies. Groundwater depletion has been ascribed to groundwater pumping, often ignoring influences of direct and indirect consequences of climate variability. Here, we explore relations between natural and human drivers and spatiotemporal changes in groundwater storage derived from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites using regression procedures and dominance analysis. Changes in groundwater storage are found to be influenced by direct climate variability, whereby groundwater recharge and precipitation exhibited greater influence as compared to groundwater pumping. Weak influence of groundwater pumping may be explained, in part, by quasi-equilibrium aquifer conditions that occur after “long-time” pumping, while precipitation and groundwater recharge records capture groundwater responses linked to climate-induced groundwater depletion. Evaluating groundwater response to climate variability is critical given the reliance of groundwater resources to satisfy water demands and impending changes in climate variability that may threaten future water availability.