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Integrating ecophysiology and forest landscape models to improve projections of drought effects under climate change

Formally Refereed
Authors: Eric J. Gustafson, Arjan M.G. De Bruijn, Robert E. Pangle, Jean-Marc Limousin, Nate G. McDowell, William T. Pockman, Brian R. Sturtevant, Jordan D. Muss, Mark E. Kubiske
Year: 2015
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Global Change Biology. 21(2): 843-856.


Fundamental drivers of ecosystem processes such as temperature and precipitation are rapidly changing and creating novel environmental conditions. Forest landscape models (FLM) are used by managers and policy-makers to make projections of future ecosystem dynamics under alternative management or policy options, but the links between the fundamental drivers and projected responses are weak and indirect, limiting their reliability for projecting the impacts of climate change. We developed and tested a relatively mechanistic method to simulate the effects of changing precipitation on species competition within the LANDIS-II FLM. Using data from a field precipitation manipulation experiment in a piñon pine (Pinus edulis) and juniper (Juniperus monosperma) ecosystem in New Mexico (USA), we calibrated our model to measurements from ambient control plots and tested predictions under the drought and irrigation treatments against empirical measurements. The model successfully predicted behavior of physiological variables under the treatments. Discrepancies between model output and empirical data occurred when the monthly time step of the model failed to capture the short-term dynamics of the ecosystem as recorded by instantaneous field measurements. We applied the model to heuristically assess the effect of alternative climate scenarios on the piñon-juniper ecosystem and found that warmer and drier climate reduced productivity and increased the risk of drought-induced mortality, especially for piñon. We concluded that the direct links between fundamental drivers and growth rates in our model hold great promise to improve our understanding of ecosystem processes under climate change and improve management decisions because of its greater reliance on first principles.


climate change, competition for light, drought, forest landscape disturbance and succession model, LANDIS-II, Pi&#241, on-juniper ecosystem, PnET-Succession, tree mortality, water stress


Gustafson, Eric J.; De Bruijn, Arjan M.G.; Pangle, Robert E.; Limousin, Jean-Marc; McDowell, Nate G.; Pockman, William T.; Sturtevant, Brian R.; Muss, Jordan D.; Kubiske, Mark E. 2015. Integrating ecophysiology and forest landscape models to improve projections of drought effects under climate change. Global Change Biology. 21(2): 843-856.