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Arctic Biosphere Atmosphere Coupling at Multiple Scales

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Hypothesis 7: Scaling Up

Heterogeneity in arctic ecosystems is considerable, and is largely governed by variations in topography, hydrology and disturbance. So, scaling up field measurements of ecosystem process to provide regional estimates always reduces confidence, because the original measurements may not be representative of the broader landscape. Agreed approaches for upscaling process understanding have remained elusive in ecology, because of a failure to link properly observations across scales. Simple additive approaches (summing the activity of distinct soil/vegetation units) are questionable because of uncertainty in defining these units and in defining their boundaries. Additive approaches may also fail entirely to identify and quantify biogeochemical processes occurring at the boundaries between soil/vegetation units, some of which may be extensive. In this proposal we have assembled a unique collection of expertise to tackle this scaling problem, bringing together the relevant tools and skills to quantify and reduce these scaling problems.

H7a: Landscape C and energy fluxes can be described as the sum of the fluxes of component patches.

H7b: Simple additive scaling of fluxes fails because boundaries are not discrete; instead, boundaries should be regarded as zones encompassing gradients of change.

To test these hypotheses we will (a) compare flux data from chambers, towers and aircraft across a range of arctic landscapes, (b) link ground surveys with airborne and high-resolution satellite imagery to characterise the environment and assess scaling and topographic effects on remote observations, and (c) use modelling and data assimilation approaches to attempt to reconcile datasets collected at different scales (see work-packages 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7). The aircraft and roving chambers provide the means to directly explore process at boundaries and identify gradients within boundary zones.

Outcome: We will determine how best to upscale detailed knowledge from a few locations to the region, and provide a detailed quantification of error on regional estimates of C, water and energy exchanges.

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Last modified: 01 Feb, 2006
The University of Edinburgh Durham University The University of Sheffield University College London The University of York Centre for Ecology and Hydrology University of Stirling Macauley Institute