Community Earth System Model Simulations Reveal the Relative Importance of Afforestation and Forest Management to Surface Temperature in Eastern North America
Ahlswede, Benjamin J.
Thomas, R. Quinn
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Afforestation changes the land surface energy balance, though the effects on climate in temperate regions is uncertain, particularly the changes associated with forest management. In this study, we used idealized Community Earth System Model simulations to assess the influence of afforestation and afforestation management in eastern North America on climate via changes in the biophysics of the land surface. Afforestation using broadleaf deciduous trees maintained at high leaf area index (LAI) in the southern part of the study region provided the greatest climate benefit by cooling summer surface air temperatures (Tsa). In contrast, the greatest warming occurred in the northern extent of the study region when afforesting with needleleaf evergreen trees maintained at high LAI. Forest management had an equal or greater influence on Tsa than the overall decision to afforest land in the southern extent of the region. Afforestation had a greater influence on Tsa than forest management in the northern extent. Integrating our results, focused on biophysical processes, with other research quantifying carbon cycle sensitivity to management can help guide the use of temperate afforestation to optimize climate benefits. Further, our results highlight the potential importance of including forest management in simulations of past and future climate.