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Forest productivity varies with soil moisture more than temperature in a small montane watershedAuthor(s): Liang Wei; Hang Zhou; Timothy E. Link; Kathleen L. Kavanagh; Jason A. Hubbart; Enhao Du; Andrew T. Hudak; John D. Marshall
Source: Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 259: 211-221.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
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DescriptionMountainous terrain creates variability in microclimate, including nocturnal cold air drainage and resultant temperature inversions. Driven by the elevational temperature gradient, vapor pressure deficit (VPD) also varies with elevation. Soil depth and moisture availability often increase from ridgetop to valley bottom. These variations complicate predictions of forest productivity and other biological responses. We analyzed spatiotemporal air temperature (T) and VPD variations in a forested, 27-km2 catchment that varied from 1000 to 1650m in elevation. Temperature inversions occurred on 76% of mornings in the growing season. The inversion had a clear upper boundary at midslope (∼1370m a.s.l.). Vapor pressure was relatively constant across elevations, therefore VPD was mainly controlled by T in the watershed. We assessed the impact of microclimate and soil moisture on tree height, forest productivity, and carbon stable isotopes (δ13C) using a physiological forest growth model (3-PG). Simulated productivity and tree height were tested against observations derived from lidar data. The effects on photosynthetic gas-exchange of dramatic elevational variations in T and VPD largely cancelled as higher temperature (increasing productivity) accompanies higher VPD (reducing productivity). Although it was not measured, the simulations suggested that realistic elevational variations in soil moisture predicted the observed decline in productivity with elevation. Therefore, in this watershed, the model parameterization should have emphasized soil moisture rather than precise descriptions of temperature inversions.
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CitationWei, Liang; Zhou, Hang; Link, Timothy E.; Kavanagh, Kathleen L.; Hubbart, Jason A.; Du, Enhao; Hudak, Andrew T.; Marshall, John D. 2018. Forest productivity varies with soil moisture more than temperature in a small montane watershed. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 259: 211-221.
Keywordscold-air drainage, soil moisture, environmental lapse rate, tree height, δ13C, forest growth
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