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Individual Highlight

Scientists Predict Survivability Factors for Northern Forests Given Elevated CO2 and Ozone Levels

Photo of Aerial view of the Aspen FACE experiment showing the control facilities (middle left), and the 12 atmospheric treatment rings of four treatments with three replicates.  In the ring at bottom center, the different model forest communities are visible. David F. Karnosky, Michigan Tech University.Aerial view of the Aspen FACE experiment showing the control facilities (middle left), and the 12 atmospheric treatment rings of four treatments with three replicates. In the ring at bottom center, the different model forest communities are visible. David F. Karnosky, Michigan Tech University.Snapshot : The researchers scaled up a high-profile 11-year ecosystem experiment called Aspen-FACE to assess how elevated carbon dioxide and ozone levels might impact real forests at the landscape scale over the course of many future decades. They determined that there will be winners and losers among species and within species groups but that managers can have considerable control over the outcomes by managing disturbance effects on forests and landscape spatial patterns. The researchers also found that changes will be gradual and that few species are likely to disappear completely because of carbon dioxide and ozone effects alone.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gustafson, Eric J.Kubiske, Mark E.
Sturtevant, Brian R.Miranda, Brian R.
Research Location : Northern Wisconsin
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 463

Summary

The Aspen-FACE experiment in northern Wisconsin generated 11 years of data on the effects of elevated carbon dioxide and ozone levels on the growth of field-grown trees comprising maple, birch and six aspen clones; however, it is still not known how these short-term plot-level responses might play out at the landscape scale over multiple decades where competition, succession, and disturbances interact with tree-level responses. Scientists at the Forest Service's Northern Research Station used a forest landscape model (LANDIS-II) to scale-up their site level research results. The study yieled the following general principles: First, a species' or clone's productivity under future conditions is the primary determinant of its short-term dominance over other groups. Second, in the long run, longevity and shade tolerance may supersede productivity as the determinant of importance, depending on the disturbance regime. This result offers hope that, even in the face of atmospheric changes, land managers may have some control over future forest composition and carbon sequestration through modification of disturbance regimes. Third, changes in a species' or clone group's abundance were mostly gradual and none of the groups disapeared from the landscape, even under treatments for which they were poorly adapted. This result suggests that as atmospheric conditions change, abrupt extinctions will probably be rare. Four, different groups fared relatively well under different treatments. This result suggests that maintaining species and genetic diversity is a prudent forest management strategy in the face of global change. Finally, accounting for spatial processes is important because seed dispersal and establishment may limit the ability of some species to colonize available habitat.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • None for this project. There were many external collaborators for the Aspen-FACE experiment. Available on request.