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Award Abstract #1023477

Collaborative Research: Integrating paleoecological analysis and ecological modeling to elucidate the responses of tundra fire regimes to climate change

NSF Org: PLR
Division Of Polar Programs
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Initial Amendment Date: August 5, 2010
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Latest Amendment Date: February 14, 2013
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Award Number: 1023477
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Neil R. Swanberg
PLR Division Of Polar Programs
GEO Directorate For Geosciences
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Start Date: August 15, 2010
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End Date: July 31, 2016 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $680,022.00
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Investigator(s): Feng Sheng Hu fshu@life.uiuc.edu (Principal Investigator)
Michael Dietze (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
SUITE A
CHAMPAIGN, IL 61820-7473 (217)333-2187
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NSF Program(s): ARCTIC SYSTEM SCIENCE PROGRAM
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Program Reference Code(s): 1079, 7969
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Program Element Code(s): 5219

ABSTRACT

Recent climate warming has resulted in profound environmental changes in the Arctic, including shrub-cover expansion, permafrost thawing, and sea-ice shrinkage. These changes foreshadow more dramatic impacts that will occur if the warming trend continues. Among the major challenges in anticipating these impacts are ?surprises? in system components that have remained relatively stable in the observational record (typically past few decades in arctic regions). Tundra burning is potentially one such component. Available evidence suggests that ongoing climate and vegetation change could significantly increase tundra burning. For example, preliminary findings reveal temperature and moisture thresholds, which may be crossed to result in burning rates that far exceed those witnessed in the observational record. In addition, a marked increase in shrub abundance is changing the physiognomic structure of arctic regions such that future tundra fire regimes may differ vastly from modern. Thus tundra burning is emerging as a key process in the rapidly changing Arctic, and knowledge of tundra fire-regime responses to climate change is essential for projecting Earth system dynamics, developing ecosystem management strategies, and preparing arctic residents for future change.

The short duration of observational fire records, paucity of fire-history studies, and possibility of novel future climate and vegetation greatly hinder our ability to evaluate how tundra fire regimes may respond to future climate and vegetation change. Paleoecological analysis and ecological modeling circumvent these limitations and offer the only ways to acquire such information. This research takes advantage of the complementary properties of paleoecological and modeling approaches to (1) quantify historic climate-vegetation-fire relationships in the tundra ecosystems of the North American Arctic, (2) conduct multi-proxy analyses of lake sediments to reconstruct tundra fire regimes during periods of the late Glacial and Holocene with novel combinations of climate and vegetation, (3) reparameterize ALFRESCO, a landscape ecosystem model initially developed to study the response of subarctic vegetation to changes in climate and fire regimes, for predicting tundra fire regimes under the suite of IPCC climate scenarios for the 21st century, (4) modify ED, a state-of-the-art physiologically-based model for tundra ecosystem studies, and (5) couple ED with ALFRESCO to simulate carbon dynamics related to 21st-century shifts in tundra fire regimes. Each of these elements is at the forefront of ongoing research in the respective areas, and together they promise to substantially advance our knowledge of climate-vegetation-fire interactions of tundra ecosystems for the past, present, and future.

The consequences of altered fire regimes in tundra ecosystems are rarely considered by the scientific community, largely because tundra fires occur infrequently on the modern landscape. Fire managers in the Arctic lack the most fundamental knowledge about the fire regimes of tundra ecosystems (e.g., fire return intervals) for the design and implementation of landscape-level fire and fuels management plans. This research addresses this issue directly. The prognostic simulations of the 21st century fire regime will provide information directly relevant to fire management planning and policy in Alaska. The researchers will collaborate with scientists from federal management agencies through this project. This partnership promotes an improved understanding of the range of past, present, and future climate-fire relationships by federal and state natural resource managers.


PUBLICATIONS PRODUCED AS A RESULT OF THIS RESEARCH

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Dietze, M.C., Davidson, C Kelly, R., et al.. "A quantitative assessment of a terrestrial biosphere model's data needs across North American biomes.," JGR-Biogeosciences., v.1, 2014, p. 0.

Kelly, R., Chipman, M.L., Higuera, P.E., Stefanova, V., Brubaker, L.B., and Hu, F.S.. "Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, v.32, 2015, p. 13055.

Hudspith, V.A., Belcher, C.M., Kelly, R., and Hu, F.S.. "Charcoal reflectance reveals early Holocene boreal deciduous forests burned at high intensities," PLoS One, v.10, 2015. 

Hu, FS; Higuera, PE; Walsh, JE; Chapman, WL; Duffy, PA; Brubaker, LB; Chipman, ML. "Tundra burning in Alaska: Linkages to climatic change and sea ice retreat," JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-BIOGEOSCIENCES, v.115, 2010.   

Kelly, R., Chipman, M.L., Higuera, P.E., Stefanova, V., Brubaker, L.B., and Hu, F.S.. "Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years.," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, v.32, 2014, p. 13055.

Fisher J, M Sikka, W Oechel, D Huntzinger, J Melton, C Koven, A Ahlström, A Arain, I Baker, J Chen, P Ciais, C Davidson, M Dietze, B El-Masri, D Hayes, C Huntingford, A Jain, P Levy, M Lomas, B Poulter, D Price, A Sahoo, K Schaefer, H Tian, E Tomelleri, H. "Carbon cycle uncertainty in the Alaskan Arctic.," Biogeosciences Discuss., v.11, 2014, p. 2887-2932. 

Chipman, M.C., Hudspith, V., Higuera, P.E., Duffy, P., Kelly, R., Oswald, W.W., and Hu, F.S.. "Spatiotemporal patterns of tundra fires: Late-Quaternary charcoal records from Alaska," Biogeosciences, v.12, 2015, p. 4017.

Kelly, R., Chipman, M.L., Higuera, P.E., Stefano, V., Brubaker, L.B., and Hu, F.S.. "Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years.," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, v.1, 2013, p. 1. 

BOOKS/ONE TIME PROCEEDING

Davidson, C.D.. "The modeled effects of fire on carbon
balance and vegetation succession in
Alaskan tundra", 08/01/2011-07/31/2012,  2012, "University of Illinois".

Hu, F.;  Higuera, P. E.;  Walsh, J. E.; 
Chapman, W.;  Duffy, P.;  Brubaker, L.; 
Chipman, M. L.. "The Blazing Arctic? Linkages of Tundra
Fire Regimes to Climatic Change and
Implications for Carbon Cycling", 08/01/2011-07/31/2012, "American Geophysical Union",  2010, "American Geophysical Union, Fall
Meeting 2010, abstract #GC51J-06".

Hu, F.;  Higuera, P. E.;  Walsh, J. E.; 
Chapman, W.;  Duffy, P.;  Brubaker, L.; 
Chipman, M. L.. "The Blazing Arctic? Linkages of Tundra
Fire Regimes to Climatic Change and
Implications for Carbon Cycling", 08/15/2010-07/31/2011, "American Geophysical Union",  2010, "American Geophysical Union, Fall
Meeting 2010, abstract #GC51J-06".

 

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