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Ecosystem carbon indicators for the U.S. National Climate Assessment

NASA, Climate Indicators and Data Products for Future National Climate Assessments, $543,884, 2016-2019

PI Jingfeng Xiao, Co-I Alexander Prusevich

Assessing the impacts of climate change on ecosystem carbon uptake and plant productivity has profound scientific, societal and policy implications. Climate regulates the magnitude, distribution, and patterns of ecosystem carbon fluxes. There is overwhelming evidence that climate variability and change alter the magnitude and trends of ecosystem carbon fluxes. Assessing the vulnerability of ecosystems to climate change and the impacts of climate change on ecosystem carbon uptake and plant productivity will inform future U.S. National Climate Assessments (NCAs).  The development of clear and concise ecosystem carbon indicators are essential for future NCAs, the evolution of national-level policy regarding climate change, and better understanding of the feedbacks between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere.

Here we propose to link in situ measurements (i.e., eddy covariance flux measurements), NASA satellite observations, and a data-driven approach to generate long-term, near real-time gridded estimates of carbon fluxes and ecosystem carbon indicators for the national scale. The overarching goals of our project are to develop a suite of ecosystem carbon indicators from the gridded flux estimates and to use these indicators to assess the vulnerabilities and impacts of climate change. The specific objectives designed to achieve our overarching goals are to: (1) obtain and process FLUXNET, meteorology, satellite, and ancillary data; (2) develop predictive models for carbon fluxes and generate gridded carbon flux estimates; (3) develop ecosystem carbon indicators (anomalies, standardized anomalies, coefficient of variation, trend, and terrestrial carbon offset) for national climate assessment; (4) assess the impacts of extreme climate events and disturbances on ecosystem carbon uptake and release; and (5) develop an online visualization, analysis, and distribution system – the Ecosystem Carbon Indicators System (ECIS). The potential users of the ecosystem carbon indicators include the U.S. Global Change Research Group (USGCRP), U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program (USCCSP), the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group (CCIWG), USDA, USGS, and the research community. The ecosystem carbon indicators will be made available to the potential users through the ECIS.

The suite of carbon indicators will be a valuable addition to the ecological, physical, and societal indicators for ftuture NCAs. Our results will provide insights into the status and trends of U.S. carbon cycle in response to climate change and will inform regional and national policies in the context of climate change and changes in the Earth System. The carbon indicators will provide important information on the influence of climate change and the feedbacks to the climate and will be useful to climate policymakers, especially with the growing interest in climate vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation. The developing and testing of the ecosystem carbon indicators address the needs of the NCA indicator vision. Our indicators will be useful for the future NCAs and will contribute to writing teams and technical input for the Sectors, Regions, and Cross-Cutting Topics that are likely to be included in future NCA products. This effort also leverages NASA’s capabilities by making use of a variety of satellite data streams and MERRA data. Our proposed work can enhance NASA’s participation in future NCAs and is responsive to the “Climate Indicators and Data Products for Future National Climate Assessments” call.