Simulating Bark Beetle Outbreak Dynamics and their Influence on Carbon Balance Estimates with ORCHIDEE r7791
Abstract. New (a)biotic conditions, resulting from climate change, are expected to change disturbance dynamics, e.g., wind throw, forest fires and insect outbreaks, and their interactions. Unprecedented natural disturbance dynamics might alter the capability of forest ecosystems to buffer atmospheric CO2 increases in the atmosphere, even leading to the risk that forests transform from sinks into sources of CO2. This study aims to enhance the capability of the ORCHIDEE land surface model to study the impacts of climate change on bark beetle dynamics and subsequent effects on forest functioning. The bark beetle outbreak model is based on previous work by Temperli et al. 2013 for the LandClim landscape model. The new implementation of this model in ORCHIDEE r7791 accounts for the following differences between ORCHIDEE and LandClim: (1) the coarser spatial resolution of ORCHIDEE, (2) the higher temporal resolution of ORCHIDEE, and (3) the pre-existing process representation of wind throw, drought, and forest structure in ORCHIDEE. Qualitative evaluation demonstrated the model’s ability to simulate a wide range of observed post-disturbance forest dynamics: (1) resistance to bark beetle infestation even in the presence of windthrow events; (2) slow transition (3–7 years) from an endemic into an epidemic bark beetle population following medium intensity window events at cold locations; and (3) fast transition (1–3 years) from endemic to epidemic triggered by strong windthrow events. Although all simulated sites eventually recovered from disturbances, the time needed to recover varied from 5 to 10 years depending on the disturbance dynamics. In addition to enhancing the functionality of the ORCHIDEE model, the new bark beetle model represents a fundamental change in the way mortality is simulated, as it replaces a framework in which mortality is conceived as a continuous process by one in which mortality is represented by abrupt events. Changing the mortality framework provided new insights into carbon balance estimates, showing the risk of overestimating the short term sequestration potential under the commonly used continuous mortality framework.
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