The boreal forest, one of the world's larger biomes, is distinct from other biomes because it experiences a short growing season and extremely cold winter temperatures. Despite its size and impact on the earth's climate system, measurements of mass and energy exchange have been rare until the past five years. This paper overviews results of recent and comprehensive field studies conducted in Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia on energy exchanges between boreal forests and the atmosphere.
How the boreal biosphere and atmosphere interact to affect the interception of solar energy and how solar energy is used to evaporate water and heat the air and soil is examined in detail. Specifically, we analyse the magnitudes, temporal and spatial patterns and controls of solar energy, moisture and sensible heat fluxes across the land–atmosphere interface. We interpret and synthesize field data with the aid of a soil–vegetation–atmosphere transfer model, which considers the coupling of the energy and carbon fluxes and nutrient status.
Low precipitation and low temperatures limit growth of many boreal forests. These factors restrict photosynthetic capacity and lower root hydraulic conductivity and stomatal conductance of the inhabitant forests. In such circumstances, these factors interact to form a canopy that has a low leaf area index and exerts a significant resistance to evaporation. Conifer forests, growing on upland soils, for example, evaporate at rates between 25 and 75% of equilibrium evaporation and lose less than 2.5 mm day−1 of water. The open nature of many boreal conifer forest stands causes a disproportionate amount of energy exchange to occur at the soil surface. The climatic and physiological factors that yield relatively low rates of evaporation over conifer stands also cause high rates of sensible heat exchange and the diurnal development of deep planetary boundary layers. In contrast, evaporation from broad-leaved aspen stands and fen/wetlands approach equilibrium evaporation rates and lose up to 6 mm day−1.