Vargas, R (2012). How a hurricane disturbance influences extreme CO2 fluxes and variance in a tropical forest. ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 7(3), 35704.
A current challenge is to understand what are the legacies left by disturbances on ecosystems for predicting response patterns and trajectories. This work focuses on the ecological implications of a major hurricane and analyzes its influence on forest gross primary productivity (GPP; derived from the moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer, MODIS) and soil CO2 efflux. Following the hurricane, there was a reduction of nearly 0.5 kgC m(-2) yr(-1), equivalent to similar to 15% of the long-term mean GPP (similar to 3.0 +/- 0.2 kgC m(-2) yr(-1); years 2003-8). Annual soil CO2 emissions for the year following the hurricane were > 3.9 +/- 0.5 kgC m(-2) yr(-1), whereas for the second year emissions were 1.7 +/- 0.4 kgC m(-2) yr(-1). Higher annual emissions were associated with higher probabilities of days with extreme soil CO2 efflux rates (> 9.7 mu mol CO2 m(-2) s(-1)). The variance of GPP was highly variable across years and was substantially increased following the hurricane. Extreme soil CO2 efflux after the hurricane was associated with deposition of nitrogen-rich fresh organic matter, higher basal soil CO2 efflux rates and changes in variance of the soil temperature. These results show that CO2 dynamics are highly variable following hurricanes, but also demonstrate the strong resilience of tropical forests following these events.