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Hurricane Katrina's Carbon Footprint on U.S. Gulf Coast Forests

Science  16 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5853, pp. 1107
DOI: 10.1126/science.1148913

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Abstract

Hurricane Katrina's impact on U.S. Gulf Coast forests was quantified by linking ecological field studies, Landsat and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image analyses, and empirically based models. Within areas affected by relatively constant wind speed, tree mortality and damage exhibited strong species-controlled gradients. Spatially explicit forest disturbance maps coupled with extrapolation models predicted mortality and severe structural damage to ~320 million large trees totaling 105 teragrams of carbon, representing 50 to 140% of the net annual U.S. forest tree carbon sink. Changes in disturbance regimes from increased storm activity expected under a warming climate will reduce forest biomass stocks, increase ecosystem respiration, and may represent an important positive feedback mechanism to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide.

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