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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

The responses of ecosystems to climate change is influenced by geology and soils

Photo of Snapshot : Land managers should be aware of the potential for very different ecological responses to climate change dependent upon soil nutrient status. Nutrient limited site conditions appear to be more stable environments than more fertile sites. Conservation strategies need to consider the dramatic changes in vegetation that have occurred on more fertile substrates in the past and consider ways to retain sufficient habitat resilience and connectivity to accommodate species adjustments to future warming.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Skinner, Carl N. 
Research Location : Klamath Mountains of northern California
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 346


The influence of geology and soils on long-term vegetation dynamics has up to now received little attention. The diverse geology of the Klamath Mountains of northern California allows examination of the long-term influence of soil nutrient constraints in subalpine forests through a comparison of vegetation histories between nutrient-limited ultramafic substrates and terrain that is more fertile. Pollen and charcoal records spanning up to 15 000 years from different environmental settings reveal distinctly different vegetation histories. Our results suggest that the tree and shrub distributions were more responsive to climate changes over the Holocene on more fertile substrates compared to those on nutrient limited substrates. The combination of these dynamics may help explain high levels of plant diversity in the Klamath Mountains and provide insights for managing complex ecosystems.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Christy Briles, Monash University, Melbourne, AustraliaCathy Whitlock, Montana State University, Bozeman, MTJerry Mohr, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR