Tropospheric ozone (O3) is an important stressor in natural ecosystems, with well documented impacts on soils, biota and ecological processes. The effects of O3 on individual plants and processes scale up through the ecosystem through effects on carbon, nutrient and hydrologic dynamics. Ozone effects on individual species and their associated microflora and fauna cascade through the ecosystem to the landscape level. Systematic injury surveys demonstrate that foliar injury occurs on sensitive species throughout the globe. However, deleterious impacts on plant carbon, water and nutrient balance can also occur without visible injury. Because sensitivity to O3 may follow coarse physiognomic plant classes (in general, herbaceous crops are more sensitive than deciduous woody plants, grasses and conifers), the task still remains to use stomatal O3 uptake to assess class and species’ sensitivity. Investigations of the radial growth of mature trees, in combination with data from many controlled studies with seedlings, suggest that ambient O3 reduces growth of mature trees in some locations. Models based on tree physiology and forest stand dynamics suggest that modest effects of O3 on growth may accumulate over time, other stresses (prolonged drought, excess nitrogen deposition) may exacerbate the direct effects of O3 on tree growth, and competitive interactions among species may be altered. Ozone exposure over decades may be altering the species composition of forests currently, and as fossil fuel combustion products generate more O3 than deteriorates in the atmosphere, into the future as well.
Future vegetation shifts under changing climate are uncertain for forests with infrequent stand-replacing disturbance regimes. These high-inertia forests may have long persistence even with climate change because disturbance-free periods can span centuries, broadscale regeneration opportunities are fewer relative to frequent-fire systems, and mature tree species are long-lived with relatively high tolerance for sub-optimal growing conditions. Here, we used a combination of empirical and process-based modeling approaches to examine vegetation projections across high-inertia forests of Washington State, USA, under different climate and wildfire futures. We ran our models without forest management (to assess inherent system behavior/potential) and also with wildfire suppression. Projections suggested relatively stable mid-elevation forests through the end of the century despite anticipated increases in wildfire. The largest changes were projected at the lowest and uppermost forest boundaries, with upward expansion of the driest low-elevation forests and contraction of cold, high-elevation subalpine parklands. While forests were overall relatively stable in simulations, increases in early-seral conditions and decreases in late-seral conditions occurred as wildfire became more frequent. With partial fire suppression, projected changes were dampened or delayed, suggesting a potential tool to forestall change in some (but not all) high-inertia forests, especially since extending fire-free periods does little to alter overall fire regimes in these systems. Model projections also illustrated the importance of fire regime context and projection limitations; the time horizon over which disturbances will eventually allow the system to shift are so long that the prevailing climatic conditions under which many of those shifts will occur are beyond what most climate models can predict with any certainty. This will present a fundamental challenge to setting expectations and managing for long-term change in these systems.
Old-growth coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest are among the most productive temperate ecosystems and have the capacity to store large amounts of carbon for multiple centuries. To date, there are considerable gaps in modeling ecosystem fluxes and their responses to physiological constraints in these old-growth forests. These model shortcomings limit our ability to understand and project how the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest will respond to global climate change. This study applies the cohort-based Ecosystem Demography Model 2 (ED2) to the Wind River Experimental Forest (Washington, USA), a well-studied old-growth Douglas-fir–western hemlock ecosystem. ED2 is calibrated and validated using an extensive suite of forest inventory, eddy covariance, and biophysical observations. ED2 is able to reproduce observed forest composition and canopy structure, and carbon, water, and energy fluxes at the site. In the simulations, the effect of limited water supply on ecosystem carbon fluxes is mediated primarily by the forest’s gross primary productivity (GPP) response, rather than its heterotrophic respiration response. The simulation indicates that stomatal conductance is mainly determined by soil moisture during periods of low vapor pressure deficit (VPD). However, when VPD is high, stomatal conductance is greatly reduced regardless of soil moisture status. During summer droughts, reduced soil moisture and increased VPD result in considerable stomatal closure and GPP reduction, which in turn decreases net carbon uptake. Cohort-based scheme integrates all canopy layers (species) that have distinct sensitivity to microclimate and respond distinctly to drought. This study is an initial first step to explore the potential importance of cohort-based model in simulating forest with complex structure, and to lay the foundation for applying cohort-based model at regional scales across the Pacific Northwest.
Warming temperatures are projected to greatly alter many forests in the Pacific Northwest. MC2 is a dynamic global vegetation model, a climate-aware, process-based, and gridded vegetation model. We calibrated and ran MC2 simulations for the Blue Mountains Ecoregion, Oregon, USA, at 30 arc-second spatial resolution. We calibrated MC2 using the best available spatial datasets from land managers. We ran future simulations using climate projections from four global circulation models (GCM) under representative concentration pathway 8.5. Under this scenario, forest productivity is projected to increase as the growing season lengthens, and fire occurrence is projected to increase steeply throughout the century, with burned area peaking early- to mid-century. Subalpine forests are projected to disappear, and the coniferous forests to contract by 32.8%. Large portions of the dry and mesic forests are projected to convert to woodlands, unless precipitation were to increase. Low levels of change are projected for the Umatilla National Forest consistently across the four GCM’s. For the Wallowa-Whitman and the Malheur National Forest, forest conversions are projected to vary more across the four GCMbased simulations, reflecting high levels of uncertainty arising from climate. For simulations based on three of the four GCMs, sharply increased fire activity results in decreases in forest carbon stocks by the mid-century, and the fire activity catalyzes widespread biome shift across the study area. We document the full cycle of a structured approach to calibrating and running MC2 for transparency and to serve as a template for applications of MC2.
Boreal forests play critical roles in global carbon, water and energy cycles. Recent studies suggest drought is causing a decline in boreal spruce growth, leading to predictions of widespread mortality and a shift in dominant vegetation type in interior Alaska. We took advantage of a large set of tree cores collected from random locations across a vast area of interior Alaska to examine long-term trends in carbon isotope discrimination and growth of black and white spruce. Our results confirm that growth of both species is sensitive to moisture availability, yet show limited evidence of declining growth in recent decades. These findings contrast with many earlier tree-ring studies, but agree with dynamic global vegetation model projections. We hypothesize that rising atmospheric [CO2] and/or changes in biomass allocation may have compensated for increasing evaporative demand, leaving recent radial growth near the long-term mean. Our results highlight the need for more detailed studies of tree physiological and growth responses to changing climate and atmospheric [CO2] in the boreal forest.
Premise of the Study: Changing climates are expected to affect the abundance and distribution of global vegetation, especially plants and lichens with an epiphytic lifestyle and direct exposure to atmospheric variation. The study of epiphytes could improve understanding of biological responses to climatic changes, but only if the conditions that elicit physiological performance changes are clearly defined. Methods: We evaluated individual growth performance of the epiphytic lichen Evernia mesomorpha, an iconic boreal forest indicator species, in the first year of a decade-long experiment featuring whole-ecosystem warming and drying. Field experimental enclosures were located near the southern edge of the species’ range. Key Results: Mean annual biomass growth of Evernia significantly declined 6 percentage points for every +1°C of experimental warming after accounting for interactions with atmospheric drying. Mean annual biomass growth was 14% in ambient treatments, 2% in unheated control treatments, and −9% to −19% (decreases) in energy-added treatments ranging from +2.25 to +9.00°C above ambient temperatures. Warming-induced biomass losses among persistent individuals were suggestive evidence of an extinction debt that could precede further local mortality events. Conclusions: Changing patterns of warming and drying would decrease or reverse Evernia growth at its southern range margins, with potential consequences for the maintenance of local and regional populations. Negative carbon balances among persisting individuals could physiologically commit these epiphytes to local extinction. Our findings illuminate the processes underlying local extinctions of epiphytes and suggest broader consequences for range shrinkage if dispersal and recruitment rates cannot keep pace.
Background and aims In northern regions, moss and lichen mats are the major carbon-cycling interface between soils and the atmosphere. We aimed to quantify sensitivity of ground layer nutrient stores to environmental predictors, to better understand interactions with vegetation, topography and climatic conditions. Methods With non-destructive forest inventory techniques, we estimated distributions of biomass, carbon and nitrogen among moss/lichen ground layers in a 1.1 million-ha watershed within Alaska’s boreal forest region. Using nonparametric multiplicative regression, we fit response surfaces and quantified sensitivity to environmental predictors. Results Across 96 sites, half the ground layer biomass values were in the range 4750–18,900 kg ha−1 (25th to 75th percentiles). Carbon and nitrogen stores peaked in older stands and those with little forb cover (suggesting low disturbance) and low incident radiation. Among functional groups, the most abundant were nitrogen-fixing feather mosses, which formed extensive carpets. Nutrient stores were most sensitive to local vegetation and topography predictors, but less sensitive to regional climate. Conclusions Moss and lichen mats in boreal forests are substantial carbon and nitrogen stores, with consequences for carbon sequestration and ecosystem productivity. Their environmental sensitivity suggests that ground layer nutrient stores could decrease if global changes promote vascular vegetation expansions and intensifying wildfire regimes. In northern regions, moss and lichen mats are the major carbon-cycling interface between soils and the atmosphere. We aimed to quantify sensitivity of ground layer nutrient stores to environmental predictors, to better understand interactions with vegetation, topography and climatic conditions.