Carbon and Water Cycle Recovery Patterns After Disturbance in Forest Ecosystems
The recovery of carbon and hydrologic cycling following two major disturbances in pine and oak-dominated stands in the New Jersey Pine Barrens---invasive insect defoliation and fire---are being measured by NRS scientists Kenneth Clark and Nicholas Skowronski. Both disturbances immediately reduced leaf area in each forest, reducing stand productivity and water use, which then closely tracked the recovery of leaf area. Understory vegetation played a major role in the regrowth of foliage after each disturbance. Within 1 year after defoliation or prescribed fire, stands were again sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When integrated over all years measured, both stands approached carbon neutrality within 2-3 years. Clark and Skowronski's research has been published in Global Change Biology and will appear in the Journal of Geophysical Research soon.