Ecosystem carbon storage does not vary with mean annual temperature in Hawaiian tropical montane wet forests

Paul C. Selmants, Creighton M. Litton, Christian P. Giardina, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Theory and experiment agree that climate warming will increase carbon fluxes between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. The effect of this increased exchange on terrestrial carbon storage is less predictable, with important implications for potential feedbacks to the climate system. We quantified how increased mean annual temperature (MAT) affects ecosystem carbon storage in above- and belowground live biomass and detritus across a well-constrained 5.2 °C MAT gradient in tropical montane wet forests on the Island of Hawaii. This gradient does not systematically vary in biotic or abiotic factors other than MAT (i.e. dominant vegetation, substrate type and age, soil water balance, and disturbance history), allowing us to isolate the impact of MAT on ecosystem carbon storage. Live biomass carbon did not vary predictably as a function of MAT, while detrital carbon declined by ~14 Mg of carbon ha-1 for each 1 °C rise in temperature - a trend driven entirely by coarse woody debris and litter. The largest detrital pool, soil organic carbon, was the most stable with MAT and averaged 48% of total ecosystem carbon across the MAT gradient. Total ecosystem carbon did not vary significantly with MAT, and the distribution of ecosystem carbon between live biomass and detritus remained relatively constant across the MAT gradient at ~44% and ~56%, respectively. These findings suggest that in the absence of alterations to precipitation or disturbance regimes, the size and distribution of carbon pools in tropical montane wet forests will be less sensitive to rising MAT than predicted by ecosystem models. This article also provides needed detail on how individual carbon pools and ecosystem-level carbon storage will respond to future warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2927-2937
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume20
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

carbon sequestration
Ecosystems
Carbon
ecosystem
carbon
temperature
temperature gradient
Temperature
detritus
Thermal gradients
biomass
warming
Biomass
disturbance
coarse woody debris
biotic factor
climate
carbon flux
terrestrial ecosystem
water budget

Keywords

  • Carbon balance
  • Carbon stocks
  • Climate change
  • Elevation gradient
  • Hawaii
  • Tropical wet forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)

Cite this

Ecosystem carbon storage does not vary with mean annual temperature in Hawaiian tropical montane wet forests. / Selmants, Paul C.; Litton, Creighton M.; Giardina, Christian P.; Asner, Gregory P.

In: Global Change Biology, Vol. 20, No. 9, 09.2014, p. 2927-2937.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Selmants, Paul C. ; Litton, Creighton M. ; Giardina, Christian P. ; Asner, Gregory P. / Ecosystem carbon storage does not vary with mean annual temperature in Hawaiian tropical montane wet forests. In: Global Change Biology. 2014 ; Vol. 20, No. 9. pp. 2927-2937.
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