CAMELEON: CArbon dynamics in Mountain Ecosystems: analyzing Landscape-scale Effects Of aNthropogenic changes (climate and land-use)

CAMELEON (2011-2013) is funded by ERA-NET Circle Mountain

The combination of climate and land use changes has triggered important land cover changes in European mountains over the past 50 years. Interactive effects between land use and climate changes still represent a critical gap in our understanding of carbon dynamics. Here, we attempt to understand and forecast changes in the carbon stocks and fluxes in mountain ecosystems. A key objective is to model the effects of climatic changes on carbon dynamics at the landscape scale, with explicit incorporation of land cover changes.

Our project targets three long-term mountain research areas located in Eastern Pyrenees (Spain), South-Western Alps (France) and Eastern Alps (Austria), representing contrasting historical and climatic contexts.

First, we will produce consistent and high-quality land cover and land cover change maps from 1950-onwards and model corresponding changes in Plant Functional Diversity (PFD).

Second, we will provide a synthesis of on-ground measurements of carbon stocks and fluxes available in the three investigated areas. The database will be completed by using moderate resolution remotely-sensed data to characterize the seasonal and multiannual dynamics of vegetation. Then, we will evaluate the ability of a widely used ecosystem-process model (ORCHIDEE) to reproduce components of carbon dynamics in complex terrains. A new parameterization of ORCHIDEE featuring continuous changes of PFD along environmental gradients will be tested.

Third, we will develop downscaled, regional climate and land use change scenarios and examine their impacts on carbon stocks and fluxes for the 21st century.

Land use scenarios will be defined with stakeholders. Key findings will be summarized in short assessment reports and discussed with stakeholders and policymakers in workshops at the end of the project.

Our project is the first attempt to provide reliable and comparative regional-scale simulations of carbon dynamics in European mountain ecosystems that incorporate our best ecological knowledge of these hot-spots of biodiversity. It is a milestone towards a better understanding of climate and land use change impacts on carbon cycling in European mountains.