Participating Students -Benjamin Sulman

Benjamin Sulman
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Enrollement Year:  2009
Email: bnsulman at
Biosphere Mentor: Ankur Desai
Atmospheric Mentor: Robert Scheller

Research Topic

Constraining and testing treatment of disturbance, succession, and biogeochemistry in a forest landscape model and understanding their effects on regional climate

Terrestrial carbon fluxes are a major component of the global greenhouse gas budget, and the understanding of current and future climate depends on accurate knowledge of the terrestrial carbon sink and the factors controlling it. Plants control the terrestrial carbon budget and also play a major role in controlling the water and energy budgets of the atmosphere over land through transpiration, roughness, and albedo effects. Large areas of the northern United States are forested, and much of this area is intensively managed. More complete knowledge of the effects of forest management on regional carbon and water budgets would advance understanding of the carbon cycle and will be critical for informing future management decisions from a climate-sensitive perspective. I propose to use the LANDIS-II forest landscape simulation model incorporating a carbon and nutrient cycling module to determine the effects of disturbance and succession on regional carbon, water, and energy budgets. Model parameters, especially those related to changes in turnover rates with forest age, will be formally tuned using ecological measurements underway at the accelerated succession experiment at UMBS. Predicted biogeochemistry will then be evaluated against eddy covariance flux tower observations of carbon and water exchange at sites in UMBS and other forest sites of different ages in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan, and finally run at the regional scale to determine the climatic effects of large-scale patterns of succession and disturbance. This project will explore how the biological aspects of disturbance and succession in forests interact with the atmosphere through changes in fluxes of carbon, moisture, heat, and momentum. I hypothesize that incorporating site-level measurements of turnover in leaves, roots, and soil carbon will improve the model’s ability to predict ecosystem scale fluxes of carbon and water, and that regional-scale model runs will reveal significant effects of landscape-level disturbance on regional carbon, water, and energy budgets.

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