Modeling soil thermal and hydrological dynamics and changes of growing season in Alaskan terrestrial ecosystems


Abundant evidence indicates the growing season has been changed in the Alaskan terrestrial ecosystems in the last century as climate warms. Reasonable simulations of growing season length, onset, and ending are critical to a better understanding of carbon dynamics in these ecosystems. Recent ecosystem modeling studies have been slow to consider the interactive effects of soil thermal and hydrological dynamics on growing season changes in northern high latitudes. Here, we develop a coupled framework to model these dynamics and their effects on plant growing season at a daily time step. In this framework, we (1) incorporate a daily time step snow model into our existing hydrological and soil thermal models and (2) explicitly model the moisture effects on soil thermal conductivity and heat capacity and the effects of active layer depth and soil temperature on hydrological dynamics. The new framework is able to well simulate snow depth and soil temperature profiles for both boreal forest and tundra ecosystems at the site level. The framework is then applied to Alaskan boreal forest and tundra ecosystems for the period 1923-2099. Regional simulations show that (1) for the historical period, the growing season length, onset, and ending, estimated based on the mean soil temperature of the top 20 cm soils, and the annual cycle of snow dynamics, agree well with estimates based on satellite data and other approaches and (2) for the projected period, the plant growing season length shows an increasing trend in both tundra and boreal forest ecosystems. In response to the projected warming, by year 2099, (1) the snow-free days will be increased by 41.0 and 27.5 days, respectively, in boreal forest and tundra ecosystems and (2) the growing season lengths will be more than 28 and 13 days longer in boreal forest and tundra ecosystems, respectively, compared to 2010. Comparing two sets of simulations with and without considering feedbacks between soil thermal and hydrological dynamics, our analyses suggest coupling hydrological and soil thermal dynamics in Alaskan terrestrial ecosystems is important to model ecosystem dynamics, including growing season changes.

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