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Assessing Secondary Forest Succession in North Carolina (NSF Funded)

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Assessment of Secondary Succession in North Carolina: advancing understanding of successional vegetation through coupled field and remote sensing studies

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Secondary successional ecosystems are widespread across the southeastern US and, as a whole, comprise a substantial terrestrial sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, the transient nature of vegetation structure and function along successional trajectories means that the magnitude of this sink is unsteady through time. Many studies have shown the temporal variability of carbon sequestration by successional ecosystems in this region; however, considerable uncertainty remains concerning the spatial distribution of these ecosystems, spatial trends in trajectories of successional vegetation, and sensitivity of successional vegetation, trajectories and carbon dynamics to climate variability. A clear understanding of these factors is necessary to predict future carbon sequestration and other ecological processes within this region. A unique opportunity exists to address these and other uncertainties and to improve understanding of secondary succession in this region using high resolution lidar (light detection and ranging) data that were collected over the entire state of North Carolina between 2001 and 2005. This dataset was originally intended for mapping ground elevations and floodplain boundaries across the state, but recent work has demonstrated that important information on vegetation structure and distribution remains embedded in the data.

The principle objective of the project is to enhance current understanding of the status of and controls on successional ecosystems in the southeastern US through development and analysis of coupled remotely sensed and ground based datasets. The project will generate high-resolution (6.1 m) maps of vegetation heights for five successional landscapes in North Carolina of approximately 1,000 km2 each. The five sites will be located in different physiographic provinces of the state, and vegetation height maps will be combined with ground-based and additional remotely sensed data from each site to assess controls on the heterogeneity of successional stands and successional chronosequences, and on their associated carbon dynamics (primarily gross primary productivity and net primary productivity). The project will examine processes at individual field sites and also among field sites to better understand how successional characteristics vary across the region.

Project Student Recruitment

RESULTS

LIDAR results

PRESENTATIONS

April 2011. Association of Southeastern Biologists - 72nd Annual Meeting. Huntsville, AL. “Analysis of secondary forest succession using LIDAR analysis in the southern Appalachians” B.D. Kloeppel, R.G. Kreza, M.C. Mentzer, T.J. Souther, and R.E. Emanuel. Poster.

August 2011. Ecological Society of America - 96th Annual Meeting, Austin, TX. “Secondary forest succession quantification using LIDAR analysis in the southern Appalachians” T.J. Souther, R.G. Kreza, M.C. Mentzer, B.D. Kloeppel, and R.E. Emanuel. Poster.

August 2011. Ecological Society of America - 96th Annual Meeting, Austin, TX. "Cross-site synthesis LIDAR Project" R.E. Emanuel, Z.E. Barthel, J. Jackson, M. Jackson, J. Johnson, R.G. Kreza, M.C. Mentzer, E. Mutai, D.A. Smith, T.J. Souther, R. Sue, C.J. Sutton, M. Talley, A. West, J. Fail, Jr., L.S. Jernigan, B.D. Kloeppel, and S. Sabaratnam.. Poster.

November 2012. Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers - 67th Annual Meeting. Asheville, NC. “Secondary forest succession quantification using LIDAR analysis in the southern Appalachians” M.C. Mentzer, B.D. Kloeppel, R.G. Kreza, T.J. Souther, and R.E. Emanuel. Poster.

PUBLICATIONS

in preparation. 2013. "Tree height as an ecological response to climate" R.E. Emanuel, B.D. Kloeppel, L.S. Jernigan, and S. Sabaratnam. Target journal: BioScience or Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We acknowledge funding from National Science Foundation grant DEB-1110742 to support this project. We thank Balsam Mountain Preserve for allowing us to conduct research on their property.


Western Carolina University student researchers (left to right):

T.J. Souther (B.S. 2011), Robbie Kreza (B.S. 2011), and Marcus Mentzer (B.S. 2013)

  
  
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