Leap frog in slow motion: Divergent responses of tree species and life stages to climatic warming in Great Basin subalpine forestsAuthor(s): Brian V. Smithers; Malcolm P. North; Constance I. Millar; Andrew M. Latimer
Source: Global Change Biology. 24(2): e442-e457
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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In response to climate warming, subalpine treelines are expected to move up in elevation since treelines are generally controlled by growing season temperature. Where treeline is advancing, dispersal differences and early life stage environmental tolerances are likely to affect how species expand their ranges. Species with an establishment advantage will colonize newly available habitat first, potentially excluding species that have slower establishment rates. Using a network of plots across five mountain ranges, we described patterns of upslope elevational range shift for the two dominant Great Basin subalpine species, limber pine and Great Basin bristlecone pine. We found that the Great Basin treeline for these species is expanding upslope with a mean vertical elevation shift of 19.1 m since 1950, which is lower than what we might expect based on temperature increases alone. The largest advances were on limber pine-dominated granitic soils, on west aspects, and at lower latitudes. Bristlecone pine juveniles establishing above treeline share some environmental associations with bristlecone adults. Limber pine above-treeline juveniles, in contrast, are prevalent across environmental conditions and share few environmental associations with limber pine adults. Strikingly, limber pine is establishing above treeline throughout the region without regard to site characteristic such as soil type, slope, aspect, or soil texture. Although limber pine is often rare at treeline where it coexists with bristlecone pine, limber pine juveniles dominate above treeline even on calcareous soils that are core bristlecone pine habitat. Limber pine is successfully “leap-frogging” over bristlecone pine, probably because of its strong dispersal advantage and broader tolerances for establishment. This early-stage dominance indicates the potential for the species composition of treeline to change in response to climate change. More broadly, it shows how species differences in dispersal and establishment may result in future communities with very different specific composition.
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CitationSmithers, Brian V.; North, Malcolm P.; Millar, Constance I.; Latimer, Andrew M. 2017. Leap frog in slow motion: Divergent responses of tree species and life stages to climatic warming in Great Basin subalpine forests. Global Change Biology. 24(2): e442-e457. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13881.
Keywordsclimate envelope, elastic net regularization, Great Basin bristlecone pine, limber pine, Pinus flexilis, Pinus longaeva, range shift, regeneration, species distribution, treeline
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