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

West, A. J., C.-W. Lin, T.-C. Lin, R. G. Hilton, S.-H. Liu, C.-T. Chang, K.-C. Lin, A. Galy, R. B. Sparkes, and N. Hovius

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(1), 2011, 77-85 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.1.0077

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 typhoon-triggered 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 Tg CWD 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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