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Julia Kelly. Photo.

Julia Kelly


Julia Kelly. Photo.

Carbon exchange in boreal ecosystems: upscaling and the impacts of natural disturbances


  • Julia Kelly

Summary, in English

Boreal forests and peatlands are globally significant carbon stores but they are threatened by rising air temperatures and changes in precipitation regimes and the frequency of natural disturbances. Predicting how the boreal biome will respond to climate change depends on being able to accurately model and upscale the greenhouse gas fluxes between these ecosystems and the atmosphere. This thesis focuses on developing simple, empirical, remote sensing models of ecosystem respiration (ER) and assessing how ER varies over space and in response to natural disturbances such as drought and wildfire.

Paper I and II tested the opportunities and limitations offered by newly available, miniaturized thermal cameras, which can capture images of surface temperature at sub-decimeter resolution. Since temperature is one of the most important factors driving ER, these cameras provide an opportunity to map ER in unprecedented detail. In Paper III, satellite land surface temperature (LST) data was used to model ER across several Nordic peatland sites to examine whether remote sensing models can capture variations in ER between sites. In addition, Paper II and III highlighted the impacts of the extreme 2018 drought that affected large parts of Europe on peatland CO2 fluxes. The drought also led to a severe wildfire season in Sweden and Paper IV investigated how the effects of fire on forest soils depended on burn severity, salvage-logging and stand age.

Producing reliable surface temperature measurements from miniaturized thermal cameras requires careful data collection and processing and one of the main outcomes of this thesis is a set of best practices for thermal camera users. Despite including larger uncertainties than traditional soil or air temperature measurements, thermal data from these cameras is suitable for modeling ER in peatland ecosystems. The ER maps that can be produced using UAV thermal cameras offer a unique resource for evaluating how ER varies within a flux tower footprint and could reveal potential biases in flux tower measurements. Indeed, this thesis demonstrated that there is substantial spatial variation in ER, both within and between peatlands. Vegetation composition played a significant role in driving this spatial variation as well as the response of peatlands to drought. Nevertheless, using only LST and the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI2) as model inputs captured a large proportion of the variability of daily ER across multiple peatlands. With further developments, such a modeling approach could represent a simple and effective way of estimating peatland ER across Scandinavia. In terms of wildfire impacts on boreal forest soils, stand age had a significant impact on soil respiration, nutrient availability and microclimate, whereas salvage-logging did not, in the first year after fire. Furthermore, the effects of drought and wildfire on ER depended on their severity, but during both extreme water stress in peatlands and after severe burning in forests, ER decreased. It is important that this negative feedback is accounted for in ER models to avoid overestimating carbon loss from northern ecosystems in response to disturbances and climate change.


  • Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC)
  • BECC - Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate
  • MERGE - ModElling the Regional and Global Earth system

Publishing year




Document type



Lund University


  • Environmental Sciences
  • Physical Geography
  • Climate Research


  • Carbon fluxes
  • CH4
  • Climate change
  • CO2
  • Drought
  • Ecosystem respiration
  • Forest
  • Peatland
  • Remote sensing
  • Temperature
  • Thermal camera
  • UAV
  • Wildfire




  • GREEN GAP: GREENhouse GAs flux uPscaling - improved understanding of key ecosystem processes using remote sensing and ground-based measurements


  • Natascha Kljun
  • Lars Eklundh
  • Xianghua Xie


  • ISBN: 978-91-7895-724-8
  • ISBN: 978-91-7895-723-1

Defence date

10 March 2021

Defence time


Defence place

Blå Hallen, Ekologihuset, Biologiska institutionen, Lund. Join via zoom:


  • Nigel Roulet (Professor)