WWETAC Projects

Project Title:  Long-term carbon dynamics in aridland ecosystems   
Principal Investigator:   Paulette Ford, Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Program (GSD), Albuquerque, NM


Collaborators:   Dr. Deborah Finch, GSD Program Manager, RMRS, Albuquerque, NM; Dr. Matt Reeves, Research Ecologist, RMRS, Missoula, MT; Dr. Marcy Litvak, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico (UNM), Dr. Scott Collins, UNM Professor and PI of the Sevilleta Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Site.

Key Issues/Problem Addressed:              

Reducing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) is a pressing environmental issue which has led to increased emphasis on quantifying flux of GHGs from terrestrial systems.  The Forest Service manages approximately 50 million acres of rangelands, which contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions through carbon (C) capture and storage.  Information regarding C cycling on southwestern aridlands is lacking, particularly in forms available to Forest Service managers.   

Setting and Approach:  

We will conduct three interrelated synthesis activities: (1) a literature review and synthesis of published studies on NPP, NEE and Re across the southwestern US  (western TX, NM, CO, UT, AZ, NV and southern CA),  (2) a data synthesis of net ecosystem exchange from flux towers located across the southwestern US (> 35 towers), and (3) a detailed data fusion synthesis of existing NEE, aboveground and belowground NPP at the Sevilleta and Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites and from Resource Planning Act (RPA) assessments to better understand aridland C dynamics.

Progress to Date:

The literature review has been completed and is included in a dissertation chapter by a University of New Mexico PhD student. The review will also be submitted to the Journal of Arid Environments.  Matt Reeves (RMRS) has developed an extensive outline to be developed into a product for managers which will provide a synoptic view of how carbon sequestration on non-forest lands relates to the climate change scorecard. Specifically we have developed information to help assist managers in making decisions about how to meet the objectives of the climate change scorecard while still providing reasonable accommodation for delivering a sustainable level of other goods and services.


All three products will lead to more detailed understanding of carbon fluxes in southwestern US ecosystems and how those dynamics will be affected by climate change, large-scale die-off of dominant species (e.g. conifers through drought and beetle infestations, creosotebush in response to severe cold) as well as by management (e.g., prescribed fires). In addition, we will produce at least three peer-reviewed synthetic publications on carbon dynamics in southwestern ecosystems

WWETAC ID:      FY11NG91