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Mobilization and transport of coarse woody debris to the oceans triggered by an extreme tropical storm

West, AJ and Lin, C-W and Lin, T-C and Hilton, RG and Liu, S-H and Chang, C-T and Lin, K-C and Galy, A and Sparkes, RB and Hovius, N (2011) Mobilization and transport of coarse woody debris to the oceans triggered by an extreme tropical storm. Limnology and Oceanography, 56. ISSN 0024-3590

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Abstract

A significant consequence of Typhoon Morakot in August 2009 was the production of vast volumes of driftwood in Pacific Asia. We have quantified the flux of this coarse woody debris (CWD) to the oceans from typhoontriggered landslides in Taiwan, where Morakot made landfall, by combining remote sensing (using FORMOSAT-2 imagery and aerial photography), analysis of forest biomass, and field observations. A total of 3.8–8.4 TgCWD was transported to the oceans, carrying 1.8–4.0 Tg of organic carbon. In addition to the local effects on the marine and coastal environment from such a highly concentrated flux of carbon and nutrients, storm-driven mobilization of CWD may represent a significant, if infrequent, transfer of terrestrial biomass to the oceans. If the frequency of relatively rare, extreme storms such as Morakot increases in a changing climate, this transport mechanism may play an important role in feedbacks between global climate, storm intensity, and carbon cycling.

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