Landslide impact on organic carbon cycling in a temperate montane forest

Hilton, Robert G and Meunier, Patrick and Hovius, Niels and Bellingham, Peter J and Galy, Albert (2011) Landslide impact on organic carbon cycling in a temperate montane forest. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36 (12). pp. 1670-1679. DOI 10.1002/esp.2191

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Abstract

In humid, forested mountain belts, bedrock landslides can harvest organic carbon from above ground biomass and soil (OCmodern) while acting to refresh the landscape surface and turnover forest ecosystems. Here the impact of landslides on organic carbon cycling in 13 river catchments spanning the length of the western Southern Alps, New Zealand is assessed over four decades. Spatial and temporal landslide maps are combined with the observed distribution and measured variability of hillslope OCmodern stocks. On average, it is estimated that landslides mobilized 7.6 ± 2.9 tC km−2 yr−1 of OCmodern, ~30% of which was delivered to river channels. Comparison with published estimates of OCmodern export in river suspended load suggests additional erosion of OCmodern by small, shallow landslides or overland flow in catchments. The exported OCmodern may contribute to geological carbon sequestration if buried in sedimentary deposits. Landslides may have also contributed to carbon sequestration over shorter timescales (<100 years). 5.4 ± 3.0 tC km−2 yr−1 of the eroded OCmodern was retained on hillslopes, representing a net-carbon sink following re-vegetation of scar surfaces. In addition, it was found that landslides caused rapid turnover of the landscape, with rates of 0.3% of the surface area per decade. High rates of net ecosystem productivity were measured in this forest of 94 ± 11 tC km−2 yr−1, which is consistent with rapid landscape turnover suppressing ecosystem retrogression. Landslide-OCmodern yields and rates of turnover vary between river catchments and appear to be controlled by gradients in climate (precipitation) and geomorphology (rock exhumation rate, topographic slope). Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2011AREP; IA63;
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Journal or Publication Title: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Volume: 36
Page Range: pp. 1670-1679
Identification Number: 10.1002/esp.2191
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2011 16:40
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:02
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/2180

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