Stand age and species composition effects on surface albedo in a mixedwood boreal forest


Surface albedo is one of the most important processes governing climate forcing in the boreal forest and is directly affected by management activities such as harvesting and natural disturbances such as forest fires. Empirical data on the effects of these disturbances on boreal forest albedo are sparse. We conducted ground-based measurements of surface albedo from a series of instrument towers over 4 years in a replicated chronosequence of mixed-wood boreal forest sites differing in stand age (0 to 19 years since disturbance) in both post-harvest and post-fire stands. We investigated the effects of stand age, canopy height, tree species composition, and ground vegetation cover on surface albedo through stand development. Our results indicate that winter and spring albedo values were 63 % and 24 % higher, respectively, in post-harvest stands than in post-fire stands.Summer and fall albedo values were similar between disturbance types, with summer albedo showing a transient peak at∼10 years stand age. The proportion of deciduous broadleaf species showed a strong positive relationship with seasonal averages of albedo in both post-harvest and post-fire stands.Given that stand composition in mixedwood boreal forests generally shows a gradual replacement of deciduous trees by conifers, our results suggest that successional changes in species composition are likely a key driver of age-related patterns in albedo. Our findings also suggest the efficacy of increasing the proportion of deciduous broadleaf species as a silvicultural option for climate-friendly management of the boreal forest.