How do disturbances and climate effects on carbon and water fluxes differ between multi-aged and even-aged coniferous forests?
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Disturbances and climatic changes significantly affect forest ecosystem productivity, water use efficiency (WUE) and carbon (C) flux dynamics. A deep understanding of terrestrial feedbacks to such effects and recovery mechanisms in forests across contrasting climatic regimes is essential to predict future regional/global C and water budgets, which are also closely related to the potential forest management decisions. However, the resilience of multi-aged and even-aged forests to disturbances has been debated for >60years because of technical measurement constraints. Here we evaluated 62site-years of eddy covariance measurements of net ecosystem production (NEP), evapotranspiration (ET), the estimates of gross primary productivity (GPP), ecosystem respiration (Re) and ecosystem-level WUE, as well as the relationships with environmental controls in three chronosequences of multi- and even-aged coniferous forests covering the Mediterranean, temperate and boreal regions. Age-specific dynamics in multi-year mean annual NEP and WUE revealed that forest age is a key variable that determines the sign and magnitude of recovering forest C source-sink strength from disturbances. However, the trends of annual NEP and WUE across succession stages between two stand structures differed substantially. The successional patterns of NEP exhibited an inverted-U trend with age at the two even-aged chronosequences, whereas NEP of the multi-aged chronosequence increased steadily through time. Meanwhile, site-level WUE of even-aged forests decreased gradually from young to mature, whereas an apparent increase occurred for the same forest age in multi-aged stands. Compared with even-aged forests, multi-aged forests sequestered more CO2 with forest age and maintained a relatively higher WUE in the later succession periods. With regard to the available flux measurements in this study, these behaviors are independent of tree species, stand ages and climate conditions. We also found that distinctly different environmental factors controlled forest C and water fluxes under three climatic regimes. Typical weather events such as temperature anomalies or drying-wetting cycles severely affected forest functions. Particularly, a summer drought in the boreal forest resulted in an increased NEP owing to a considerable decrease in Re, but at the cost of greater water loss from deeper groundwater resources. These findings will provide important implications for forest management strategies to mitigate global climate change.
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