Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams
Clark University · School of Geography

PhD

About

139
Publications
48,748
Reads
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12,252
Citations
Introduction
I am an environmental scientist specializing in terrestrial ecosystem ecology and land surface hydrology. I lead a research group at Clark University (see http://wordpress.clarku.edu/cwilliams/) emphasizing the use of field data, remote sensing observations, and computer models to study how earth's biosphere responds to natural and human perturbations such as severe drought events, bark beetle outbreaks, fires, harvesting, and land cover changes, with diverse funding support.
Additional affiliations
September 2008 - present
Clark University
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
May 2006 - September 2008
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Position
  • Researcher
October 2004 - May 2006
Colorado State University
Position
  • Researcher

Publications

Publications (139)
Article
This study examines the post-fire biogeophysical and biochemical dynamics after several high-severity wildfires that occurred in mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forest types in the Sierra Nevada and Klamath Mountains regions between 1986 and 2017. We found a consistent pattern of reduced leaf area index (LAI) in the first year after fire, followed...
Article
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Atmospheric CO2 measurements from a dense surface network can help to evaluate terrestrial biosphere model (TBM) simulations of Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) with two key benefits. First, gridded CO2 flux estimates can be evaluated over regional scales, not possible using flux tower observations at discrete locations for model evaluation. Second, TB...
Article
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More than half of the solar energy absorbed by land surfaces is currently used to evaporate water 1. Climate change is expected to intensify the hydrological cycle 2 and to alter evapotranspiration, with implications for ecosystem services and feedback to regional and global climate. Evapotranspiration changes may already be under way, but direct o...
Article
Understanding vegetation recovery after drought is critical for projecting vegetation dynamics in future climates. From 1997 to 2009, Australia experienced a long-lasting drought known as the Millennium Drought (MD), which led to widespread reductions in vegetation productivity. However, vegetation recovery post-drought and its determinants remain...
Article
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The ACT‐America project is a NASA Earth Venture Suborbital‐2 mission designed to study the transport and fluxes of greenhouse gases. The open and freely available ACT‐America data sets provide airborne in situ measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane, trace gases, aerosols, clouds, and meteorological properties, airborne remote sensing m...
Article
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Terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) play a key role in the detection and attribution of carbon cycle processes at local to global scales and in projections of the coupled carbon‐climate system. TBM evaluation commonly involves direct comparison to eddy‐covariance flux measurements. We use atmospheric CO2 mole fraction ([CO2]) measured in situ from...
Article
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Alongside the steep reductions needed in fossil fuel emissions, natural climate solutions (NCS) represent readily deployable options that can contribute to Canada’s goals for emission reductions. We estimate the mitigation potential of 24 NCS related to the protection, management, and restoration of natural systems that can also deliver numerous co...
Article
The Atmospheric Carbon and Transport (ACT) – America NASA Earth Venture Suborbital Mission set out to improve regional atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) inversions by exploring the intersection of the strong GHG fluxes and vigorous atmospheric transport that occurs within the midlatitudes. Two research aircraft instrumented with remote and in situ s...
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Accurate quantification of forest carbon stocks and fluxes over regions is needed to monitor forest resources as they respond to changes in climate, disturbance and management, and also to evaluate contributions of forest sector to the regional and global carbon balances. In previous work we introduced a National Forest Carbon Monitoring System (NF...
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Storing carbon in forests is a leading land-based strategy to curb anthropogenic climate change, but its planetary cooling effect is opposed by warming from low albedo. Using detailed geospatial data from Earth-observing satellites and the national forest inventory, we quantify the net climate effect of losing forest across the conterminous United...
Article
Landsat-8 derived Land Surface Temperature (LST) is used to measure Surface Urban Heat Island (SUHI) patterns and intensity in Worcester, MA, USA. Additionally, near-surface air temperature variability is measured using in-situ sensors to further contextualize the urban-to-rural land-cover driven thermal patterns in the study area. Despite the wide...
Article
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How, where, and why carbon (C) moves into and out of an ecosystem through time are long‐standing questions in biogeochemistry. Here, we bring together hundreds of thousands of C‐cycle observations at the Harvard Forest in central Massachusetts, USA, a mid‐latitude landscape dominated by 80–120‐year‐old closed‐canopy forests. These data answered fou...
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During the period from 1997 to 2009, Australia experienced a severe and persistent drought known as the millennium drought (MD). Major water shortages were reported across the continent, and there were some field accounts of tree mortality and dieback, but large‐area assessment has been lacking. Given uncertain projections of future drought conditi...
Article
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Accurate and fine‐scale estimates of biogenic carbon fluxes are critical for measuring and monitoring the biosphere's responses and feedbacks to the climate system. Currently available data products from flux towers and model‐intercomparison projects struggle to adequately represent spatiotemporal dynamics of surface biogenic carbon fluxes, and to...
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Plain Language Summary Uncertainty in future uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) by terrestrial ecosystems drives divergent projections of future climate and uncertainty in prescriptions for climate mitigation. North American ecosystems are currently a significant sink of atmospheric CO2, but this sink is difficult to measure and thus understand. Terres...
Article
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This study documents annual carbon stocks and fluxes from 1986 to 2010 at 30‐m resolution across southeastern U.S. forests, analyzing trends and regional greenhouse gas exchange. We used forest inventory data to guide a carbon cycle model representing postdisturbance carbon dynamics for diverse forest and site conditions. We mapped carbon stocks an...
Article
The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB, Anoplophora glabripennis) is an invasive pest species currently infesting major port cities in North America and Europe. There is limited knowledge regarding the pathways of movement across heterogeneous landscapes at local scales. This study models dispersal pathways using circuit theory in Worcester, Massachusett...
Article
Central Asia experienced substantial institutional and socioeconomic changes during the last few decades, especially the Soviet Union collapse in 1991. It remains unclear how these profound changes impacted vegetation productivity across space and time. This study used the satellite-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and gridded...
Technical Report
Full-text available
KEY FINDINGS 1. Net uptake of 217 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year by the forest sector in North America is well documented and has persisted at about this level over the last decade. The strength of net carbon uptake varies regionally, with about 80% of the North American forest carbon sink occurring within the United States (high confidence, v...
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This research investigates ecological responses to drought by developing a conceptual framework of vegetation response and investigating how multiple measures of drought can improve regional drought monitoring. We apply this approach to a case study of a recent drought in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. First, we assess drought severity with the Standard P...
Article
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Limiting climate warming to <2°C requires increased mitigation efforts, including land stewardship, whose potential in the United States is poorly understood. We quantified the potential of natural climate solutions (NCS)—21 conservation, restoration, and improved land management interventions on natural and agricultural lands—to increase carbon st...
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Life on Earth comes in many forms, but all life-forms share a common element in carbon. It is the basic building block of biology, and by trapping radiation it also plays an important role in maintaining the Earth’s atmosphere at a temperature hospitable to life. Like all matter, carbon can neither be created nor destroyed, but instead is continuou...
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Deciduousness in dry tropical forests results in substantial seasonal changes to canopy gap fractions. The characterization of such structural properties over large areas is necessary for understanding energy and nutrient distribution within forest ecosystems. However, a spatial extrapolation of measurements from relatively few, spatially-concentra...
Article
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Predicting the seasonal dynamics of ecosystem carbon fluxes is challenging in broadleaved evergreen forests because of their moderate climates and subtle changes in canopy phenology. We assessed the climatic and biotic drivers of the seasonality of net ecosystem–atmosphere CO2 exchange (NEE) of a eucalyptus-dominated forest near Sydney, Australia,...
Article
This paper explores predictors of juvenile tree mortality in a newly planted cohort in Worcester, MA, following an episode of large-scale tree removal necessitated by an Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis, ALB) eradication program. Trees are increasingly seen as important providers of ecosystem services for urban areas, including: cl...
Article
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Predicting the seasonal dynamics of ecosystem carbon fluxes is challenging in broadleaved evergreen forests because of their moderate climates and subtle changes in canopy phenology. We assessed the climatic and biotic drivers of the seasonality of net ecosystem-atmosphere CO2 exchange (NEE) of a eucalyptus-dominated forest near Sydney, Australia,...
Article
Tropical Dry Forest (TDF) deciduousness is a behavioral response to climate conditions that determines ecosystem-level carbon uptake, energy flux, and habitat conditions. It is regulated by factors related to stand age, and landscape scale variability in deciduous phenology may affect ecosystem functioning in forests throughout the tropics. This st...
Article
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Understanding the sensitivity of transpiration to stomatal conductance is critical to simulating the water cycle. This sensitivity is a function of the degree of coupling between the vegetation and the atmosphere and is commonly expressed by the decoupling factor. The degree of coupling assumed by models varies considerably and has previously been...
Article
Intrinsic water-use efficiency (iWUE) characterizes the physiological control on the simultaneous exchange of water and carbon dioxide in terrestrial ecosystems. Knowledge of iWUE is commonly gained from leaf-level gas exchange measurements, which are inevitably restricted in their spatial and temporal coverage. Flux measurements based on the eddy...
Article
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Anoplophora glabripennis, the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB), is an invasive species of high economic and ecological relevance given the potential it has to cause tree damage, and sometimes mortality, in the United States. Because this pest is introduced by transport in wood-packing products from Asia, ongoing trade activities pose continuous risk o...
Article
The terrestrial carbon and water cycles are intimately linked: the carbon cycle is driven by photosynthesis, while the water balance is dominated by transpiration, and both fluxes are controlled by plant stomatal conductance. The ratio between these fluxes, the plant water-use efficiency (WUE), is a useful indicator of vegetation function. WUE can...
Article
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Large-scale deforestation and reforestation have contributed substantially to historical and contemporary global climate change in part through albedo-induced radiative forcing, with meaningful implications for forest management aiming to mitigate climate change. Associated warming or cooling varies widely across the globe due to a range of factors...
Article
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Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) plays an important role in moderating the Surface Urban Heat Island (SUHI) effect, which poses threats to human health due to substantially increased temperatures relative to rural areas. UTC coverage is associated with reduced urban temperatures, and therefore benefits both human health and reducing energy use in cities. Me...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the sensitivity of transpiration to stomatal conductance is critical to simulating the water cycle. This sensitivity is a function of the degree of coupling between the vegetation and the atmosphere, and is commonly expressed by the decoupling factor. The level of decoupling assumed by models varies considerably and has previously bee...
Article
Full-text available
Terrestrial ecosystems play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and offset a large fraction of anthropogenic CO 2 emissions. The terrestrial carbon sink is increasing, yet the mechanisms responsible for its enhancement, and implications for the growth rate of atmospheric CO 2 , remain unclear. Here using global carbon budget estimates, gr...
Article
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Accurate assessment of forest carbon storage and uptake is central to policymaking aimed at mitigating climate change and understanding the role forests play in the global carbon cycle. Disturbances have highly diverse impacts on forest carbon dynamics, making them a challenge to quantify and report. Time since disturbance is a key intermediate det...
Data
Supplementary Figures 1-12 and Supplementary Tables 1-3 Supplementary References.
Article
Full-text available
Soil moisture supply and atmospheric demand for water independently limit - and profoundly affect - vegetation productivity and water use during periods of hydrologic stress. Disentangling the impact of these two drivers on ecosystem carbon and water cycling is difficult because they are often correlated, and experimental tools for manipulating atm...
Article
Disturbances are a major determinant of forest carbon stocks and uptake. They generally reduce land carbon stocks but also initiate a regrowth legacy that contributes substantially to the contemporary rate of carbon stock increase in US forestlands. As managers and policy makers increasingly look to forests for climate protection and mitigation, an...
Article
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Assessment of forest carbon storage and uptake is central to understanding the role forests play in the global carbon cycle and policy-making aimed at mitigating climate change. Current U.S. carbon stocks and fluxes are monitored and reported at fine-scale regionally, or coarse-scale nationally. We proposed a new methodology of quantifying carbon u...
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Increases in atmospheric CO2 and CH4 result from a combination of forcing from anthropogenic emissions and Earth System feedbacks that reduce or amplify the effects of those emissions on atmospheric concentrations. Despite decades of research carbon-climate feedbacks remain poorly quantified. The impact of these uncertainties on future climate are...
Article
Evaporation from wet canopies (E) can return up to half of incident rainfall back into the atmosphere and is a major cause of the difference in water use between forests and short vegetation. Canopy water budget measurements often suggest values of E during rainfall that are several times greater than those predicted from Penman–Monteith theory. Ou...
Article
Warmer conditions over the past two decades have contributed to rapid expansion of bark beetle outbreaks killing millions of trees over a large fraction of western United States (US) forests. These outbreaks reduce plant productivity by killing trees, and transfer carbon from live to dead pools where carbon is slowly emitted to the atmosphere via h...
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Widespread anthropogenic land-cover change over the last five centuries has influenced the global climate system through both biogeochemical and biophysical processes. Models indicate that warming from carbon emissions associated with land-cover conversion have been partially offset by cooling from elevated albedo, but considerable uncertainty rema...
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Surface albedo determines radiative forcing and is a key parameter for driving Earth’s climate. Better characterization of surface albedo for individual land cover types can reduce the uncertainty in estimating changes to Earth’s radiation balance due to land cover change. This paper presents albedo look-up maps (LUMs) using a multiscale hierarchic...
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Previous studies have drawn attention to substantial hydrological changes taking place in mountainous watersheds where hydrology is dominated by cryospheric processes. Modelling is an important tool for understanding these changes but is particularly challenging in mountainous terrain owing to scarcity of ground observations and uncertainty of mode...
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Reduced carbon uptake caused by recent heat and drought extremes raises concerns about biospheric feedbacks that amplify global warming. However, elevated carbon dioxide is expected to boost terrestrial ecosystem productivity over the 21st century, potentially alleviating some of the adverse carbon impacts of climate extremes. Using CMIP5 earth sys...
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Clearcutting a forest ecosystem can result in a drastic reduction of stand productivity. Despite the severity of this disturbance type, past studies have found that the productivity of young regenerating stands can quickly rebound, approaching that of mature undisturbed stands within a few years. One of the obvious reasons is increased leaf area (L...
Article
Wildfire is a major disturbance in the Arctic tundra and boreal forests, having a significant impact on soil hydrology, carbon cycling, and permafrost dynamics. This study explores the use of the microwave Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) technique to map and quantify ground surface subsidence caused by the Anaktuvuk River fire on t...