Carbon Dynamics at Harvard Forest: Ecological Responses to Changes in the Growing Season

  • Lauren Kathleen SanchezEmail author


Our understanding of forest carbon dynamics is a crucial component of global carbon management given the potential impacts from future climatic changes. Observed increases in carbon storage in New England forests are not fully understood, and explanations range from increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition to longer growing seasons. These explanations highlight the importance of investigating the phenological and ecosystem function responses to increases in the growing season. Responses were modeled and studied at Harvard Forest, a temperate deciduous forest located in Petersham, MA. Ongoing biometric and eddy flux measurements at the forest provided 17 years of data for this study. Measurements included biometry components, such as leaf area index (LAI) and aboveground woody biomass, and the eddy flux parameters, including carbon flux and measurements of PAR and vapor pressure deficit (VPD). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to analyze these data and investigate their whole ecosystem direct and indirect interactions. SEM allowed for analyses that addressed the complexity of forest ecosystems and their components. Growing season length was a significant driver of carbon uptake, and was heavily influenced by soil temperatures below the surface. Analyses of the eddy flux data resulted in a model that accurately portrayed the interactions between the eddy flux components and the growing season (GFI = 0.90). Further, the best-fit integrated model simulated an ecological 1-year time lag between the eddy flux and biometry data (GFI = 0.78). This study presents a basis for SEM analyses with the biometry and eddy flux measurements at Harvard Forest. Further research is needed to investigate the ecosystem function responses to changes in the growing season.


Carbon dynamics Forest ecology Climate change modeling Eddy flux technique Growing season changes 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesNew HavenUSA

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