DOI: 10.1101/478693Nov 27, 2018Paper

Climate or disturbance: temperate forest structural change and carbon sink potential

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Travis AndrewsRobert Booth


Anticipating forest responses to changing climate and disturbance regimes requires understanding long-term successional processes and aggregating these local processes into global relevance. Estimates of existing forest structure and biomass are improving globally; however, vegetation models continue to show substantial spread in predictions of future land carbon uptake and the roles of forest structural change and demography are increasingly being recognized as important. To identify mechanisms that drive change in tree size, density, and carbon, we need a better understanding of forest structural trajectories and the factors that affect those trajectories. Here we reveal a coherent, cyclic pattern of structural change in temperate forests, as predicted by successional theory, and identify significant sensitivity to climatic precipitation and temperature anomalies using large datasets and empirical modeling. For example, in the eastern US above average temperature (+1°C) was associated with a 27% (-0.4±0.1 Mg C ha-1 yr-1) reduction in productivity attributed to higher rates of disease (+23%), weather disturbance (+57%), and sapling mortality. Projections of future vegetative carbon sink potential suggests biomass would be lowe...Continue Reading

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