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Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences

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Landslides -- Case Studies, Geomorphology, Landslides -- Rheology


Landslides, a forest disturbance, mobilize carbon (C) sequestered in vegetation and soils. Mobilized C is deposited either onto hillslopes or into the water, sequestering C from and releasing C to the atmosphere at different time scales. The C-dense old-growth temperate forests of SE Alaska are a unique location to quantify C mobilization rate by frequent landslides that often evolve into saturated moving masses known as debris flows. In this study, the amount of C mobilized by debris flows over historic time scales was estimated by combining a landslide inventory with maps of modeled biomass and soil carbon. We analyzed SE Alaskan landslides over a 55-year period where a total of 4.69 ± 0.21 MtC was mobilized, an average rate of 2.5 tC km−2 yr−1. A single event in August 2015 mobilized 57,651 ± 3,266 tC, an average of 63 tC km−2. Depositional fate was inferred using two methods, a standard stream intersection analysis and a second novel approach using simulated debris flow deposition modeling calibrated to the study area. Approximately 60% of debris flow deposits intersected the stream network (9% into mainstem channels, 91% into small tributaries), consistent with long-term modeled connectivity, suggesting that debris flows are likely to contribute to globally significant amounts of C buried in local fjord sediments. Our results are consistent with an emerging consensus that landslide disturbances that mobilize organic carbon may play an important role in the global carbon cycle over geologic time, with coastal temperate forests being hotspots of potential carbon sequestration.


© 2021 American Geophysical Union



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