A vegetation carbon isoscape for Australia built by combining continental-scale field surveys with remote sensing

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-022-01476-y. This is version 1 of this Preprint.

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Samantha Munroe, Greg Guerin, Francesca A. McInerney, Irene Martín-Forés, Nina Welti, Mark Farrell, Rachel Atkins, Ben Sparrow


Context: Maps of C3 and C4 plant abundance and stable carbon isotope values (δ13C) across terrestrial landscapes are valuable tools in ecology to investigate species distribution and carbon exchange. Australia has a predominance of C4-plants, thus monitoring change in C3:C4 cover and δ13C is essential to national management priorities. Objectives: We applied a novel combination of field surveys and remote sensing data to create maps of C3 and C4 abundance in Australia, and a vegetation δ13C isoscape for the continent. Methods: We used vegetation and land-use rasters to categorize grid-cells (100 m2) into woody (C3), native herbaceous, and herbaceous cropland (C3 and C4) cover. Field surveys and environmental factors were regressed to predict native C4 herbaceous cover. These layers were combined and a δ13C mixing model was used to calculate site-averaged δ13C values. Results: Seasonal rainfall, maximum summer temperature, and soil pH were the best predictors of C4 herbaceous cover. Comparisons between predicted and observed values at field sites indicated our approach reliably predicted generalised C3:C4 abundance. Southern Australia, which has cooler temperatures and winter rainfall, was dominated by C3 vegetation and low δ13C values. C4-dominated areas included northern savannahs and grasslands. Conclusions: Our isoscape approach is distinct because it incorporates remote sensing products that calculate cover beneath the canopy, the influence of local factors, and extensive validation, all of which are critical to accurate predictions. Our models can be used to predict C4:C3 abundance under climate change, which is expected to substantially alter current C4:C3 abundance patterns




Life Sciences, Plant Biology, Plant Sciences



Published: 2022-04-25 21:32


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Data and Code Availability Statement:
Data will be made available on TERN data network shortly.