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Large loss and rapid recovery of vegetation cover and aboveground biomass over forest areas in Australia during 2019–2020

Qin, Yuanwei and Xiao, Xiangming and Wigneron, Jean-Pierre and Ciais, Philippe and Canadell, Josep G. and Brandt, Martin and Li, Xiaojun and Fan, Lei and Wu, Xiaocui and Tang, Hao and Dubayah, Ralph and Doughty, Russell and Crowell, Sean and Zheng, Bo and Moore, Berrien, III (2022) Large loss and rapid recovery of vegetation cover and aboveground biomass over forest areas in Australia during 2019–2020. Remote Sensing of Environment, 278 . Art. No. 113087. ISSN 0034-4257. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2022.113087.

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Australia experienced multi-year drought and record high temperatures, and massive forest fires occurred across the southeast in 2019 and early 2020. In the fire-affected forest areas, understory and often tree canopies were burned, and in-situ observations in late 2020 reported rapid vegetation recovery, including grasses, shrubs, and tree canopies from burned-but-not-dead eucalyptus trees. Considering the strong fire resilience and resistance of eucalyptus trees and above-average rainfall in 2020, we assessed how much and how quickly vegetation structure and biomass changed from loss to post-fire and drought recovery in 2020 for all forest areas in Australia. Here, we analyzed space-borne optical, thermal, and microwave images to assess changes in the structure and function of vegetation using four vegetation indices (VIs), leaf area index (LAI), solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF), gross primary production (GPP), and aboveground biomass (AGB). We found that all eight variables show large losses in 2019, driven by fires and climate (drought and high temperature), but large gains in 2020, resulting from the high resilience of most trees to fire and rapid growth of understory vegetation under wet condition in 2020. In 2019, the forest area has an AGB loss of 0.20 Pg C, which is ~15% of the pre-fire AGB. Attribution analyses showed that both fire and climate (prior and co-occurring severe drought and record high temperatures) are responsible for the AGB loss in 2019, approximately 0.09 Pg C (fire) and 0.11 Pg C (climate), respectively. In 2020, the forest area has a total AGB gain of 0.26 Pg C, composed of 0.22 Pg C from fire-affected forest area and 0.04 Pg C from fire-unaffected forest area. Fire-adapted Eucalyptus forests and above-average annual precipitation in 2020 brought by a moderate La Niña drove the recovery of vegetation cover, productivity, and AGB. The results from this study shows the potential of multiple sensors for monitoring and assessing the impacts of fire and climate on the forest areas in Australia and their post-fire recovery.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription data
Qin, Yuanwei0000-0002-5181-9986
Xiao, Xiangming0000-0003-0956-7428
Wigneron, Jean-Pierre0000-0001-5345-3618
Ciais, Philippe0000-0001-8560-4943
Canadell, Josep G.0000-0002-8788-3218
Brandt, Martin0000-0001-9531-1239
Fan, Lei0000-0002-1834-5088
Wu, Xiaocui0000-0001-7447-0257
Dubayah, Ralph0000-0003-1440-6346
Doughty, Russell0000-0001-5191-2155
Crowell, Sean0000-0001-8353-3707
Zheng, Bo0000-0001-8344-3445
Moore, Berrien, III0000-0001-7870-8920
Additional Information:© 2022 Elsevier. Received 27 October 2021, Revised 9 May 2022, Accepted 14 May 2022, Available online 25 May 2022, Version of Record 25 May 2022. This study is supported in part by research grants from NASA Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCarb) Mission (GeoCarb Contract # 80LARC17C0001), NSF (IIA-1946093), NASA Land Use and Land Cover Change program (NNX14AD78G) and NASA Science Team for the OCO Missions (80NSSC21K1077). JGC thanks the support from the Australian National Environmental Science Program-Climate Systems Hub. We thank the four reviewers for their time and effort in the review process and their comments and suggestions are invaluable for us to improve the manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Australian National Environmental Science Program-Climate Systems HubUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Forest; Carbon; Remote sensing; Forest recovery; Climate change; Fire
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220526-391450000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Yuanwei Qin, Xiangming Xiao, Jean-Pierre Wigneron, Philippe Ciais, Josep G. Canadell, Martin Brandt, Xiaojun Li, Lei Fan, Xiaocui Wu, Hao Tang, Ralph Dubayah, Russell Doughty, Sean Crowell, Bo Zheng, Berrien Moore, Large loss and rapid recovery of vegetation cover and aboveground biomass over forest areas in Australia during 2019–2020, Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 278, 2022, 113087, ISSN 0034-4257,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114950
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:31 May 2022 22:55
Last Modified:31 May 2022 22:55

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