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Projecting the spatiotemporal carbon dynamics of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from 2006 to 2050

January 1, 2015


Climate change and the concurrent change in wildfire events and land use comprehensively affect carbon dynamics in both spatial and temporal dimensions. The purpose of this study was to project the spatial and temporal aspects of carbon storage in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) under these changes from 2006 to 2050. We selected three emission scenarios and produced simulations with the CENTURY model using three General Circulation Models (GCMs) for each scenario. We also incorporated projected land use change and fire occurrence into the carbon accounting.


The three GCMs showed increases in maximum and minimum temperature, but precipitation projections varied among GCMs. Total ecosystem carbon increased steadily from 7,942 gC/m2 in 2006 to 10,234 gC/m2 in 2050 with an annual rate increase of 53 gC/m2/year. About 56.6% and 27% of the increasing rate was attributed to total live carbon and total soil carbon, respectively. Net Primary Production (NPP) increased slightly from 260 gC/m2/year in 2006 to 310 gC/m2/year in 2050 with an annual rate increase of 1.22 gC/m2/year. Forest clear-cutting and fires resulted in direct carbon removal; however, the rate was low at 2.44 gC/m2/year during 2006–2050. The area of clear-cutting and wildfires in the GYE would account for 10.87% of total forested area during 2006–2050, but the predictive simulations demonstrated different spatial distributions in national forests and national parks.


The GYE is a carbon sink during 2006–2050. The capability of vegetation is almost double that of soil in terms of sequestering extra carbon. Clear-cutting and wildfires in GYE will affect 10.87% of total forested area, but direct carbon removal from clear-cutting and fires is 109.6 gC/m2, which accounts for only 1.2% of the mean ecosystem carbon level of 9,056 gC/m2, and thus is not significant.

Publication Year 2015
Title Projecting the spatiotemporal carbon dynamics of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from 2006 to 2050
DOI 10.1186/s13021-015-0017-6
Authors Shengli Huang, Shuguang Liu, Jinxun Liu, Devendra Dahal, Claudia Young, Brian Davis, Terry L. Sohl, Todd Hawbaker, Benjamin M. Sleeter, Zhiliang Zhu
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Carbon Balance and Management
Index ID 70188061
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center