Document Type

Yellowstone National Park Report

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Climate, fire frequency and intensity, and forest structure and development are strongly linked, and predicting potential changes in carbon storage depends on understanding these links. However, we lack the ability to make robust predictions about how changes in climate will alter these interactions and change the carbon balance of a landscape. Forests contain as much as 80% of the total carbon stored aboveground and 40% of that stored belowground in terrestrial ecosystems (Dixon et al. 1994, Harmon 2001). Disturbances such as fires or insect outbreaks - controlled largely by climate - may shift a forested area from a net sink to a net source of carbon to the atmosphere, and increasing the frequency of large disturbances may affect the global carbon budget. Complex interactions among climate, disturbance regimes, and stand-level ecosystem processes, however, preclude predicting the importance of climate change for forest landscapes.