, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 947–959 | Cite as

Disturbances, Their Interactions, and Cumulative Effects on Carbon and Charcoal Stocks in a Forested Ecosystem

  • Brian Buma
  • Rebecca E. Poore
  • Carol A. Wessman


Disturbances have a strong role in the carbon balance of many ecosystems, and the cycle of vegetation growth, disturbance, and recovery is very important in determining the net carbon balance of terrestrial biomes. Compound disturbances are phenomena of growing concern which can impact ecosystems in novel ways, altering disturbance intensity, severity, and recovery trajectories. This research focuses on carbon stocks in a compound disturbance environment, with special attention on black carbon (charcoal), a potential source of long-term carbon sequestration. We report on a well-studied compound disturbance event (wind, logging, and severe fire) in a Colorado, USA subalpine forest that was extensively surveyed for impacts on carbon, black carbon, and regeneration. All major pools were considered, including organic and mineral soil (10 cm depth), and contrasted with neighboring undisturbed forests as a reference. The disturbances had an additive effect on carbon loss, with increasing numbers of disturbances resulting in progressively decreasing carbon/black carbon stocks. This resulted from lower substrate availability and higher fire intensity. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference between reference and burned plots in terms of total black carbon. It appears that high-intensity fires do not significantly increase net black carbon in these forests (over the entire fire-return interval), with additional disturbances potentially resulting in a net loss. Disturbances, and their interactions, will have long-lasting legacies for carbon and black carbon.


multiple perturbations compound disturbance interactions carbon sequestration charcoal resilience black carbon stocks 



This work was made possible via funding from NSF DEB1119819. Partial support was provided by Alaska EPSCoR NSF Award #OIA-1208927 and the state of Alaska. Tim Seastedt provided helpful comments on the drafts, as did three reviewers. Melissa Pingree provided assistance in the early stages of the charcoal digestions. Many assistants worked in the field collecting samples and processing them in the lab: Danielle Cluckey, Eva Adler, Kelsey Bickham, and Brooke Regan. Adam Markovits helped with sampling and initial setup of the digestion apparatus. Austin Rempel also assisted with field sampling.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (DOC 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Buma
    • 1
  • Rebecca E. Poore
    • 2
  • Carol A. Wessman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Natural SciencesUniversity of Alaska SoutheastJuneauUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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