How disturbance, competition, and dispersal interact to prevent tree range boundaries from keeping pace with climate change

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  • Yu Liang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Harvard Forest
  • ,
  • Matthew J. Duveneck, Harvard Forest
  • ,
  • Eric J. Gustafson, USDA Forest Service
  • ,
  • Josep M. Serra-Diaz, Harvard Forest
  • ,
  • Jonathan R. Thompson, Harvard Forest

Climate change is expected to cause geographic shifts in tree species' ranges, but such shifts may not keep pace with climate changes because seed dispersal distances are often limited and competition-induced changes in community composition can be relatively slow. Disturbances may speed changes in community composition, but the interactions among climate change, disturbance and competitive interactions to produce range shifts are poorly understood. We used a physiologically based mechanistic landscape model to study these interactions in the northeastern United States. We designed a series of disturbance scenarios to represent varied disturbance regimes in terms of both disturbance extent and intensity. We simulated forest succession by incorporating climate change under a high-emissions future, disturbances, seed dispersal, and competition using the landscape model parameterized with forest inventory data. Tree species range boundary shifts in the next century were quantified as the change in the location of the 5th (the trailing edge) and 95th (the leading edge) percentiles of the spatial distribution of simulated species. Simulated tree species range boundary shifts in New England over the next century were far below (usually <20 km) that required to track the velocity of temperature change (usually more than 110 km over 100 years) under a high-emissions scenario. Simulated species` ranges shifted northward at both the leading edge (northern boundary) and trailing edge (southern boundary). Disturbances may expedite species' recruitment into new sites, but they had little effect on the velocity of simulated range boundary shifts. Range shifts at the trailing edge tended to be associated with photosynthetic capacity, competitive ability for light and seed dispersal ability, whereas shifts at the leading edge were associated only with photosynthetic capacity and competition for light. This study underscores the importance of understanding the role of interspecific competition and disturbance when studying tree range shifts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Pages (from-to)e335-e351
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

    Research areas

  • climate change, competition, disturbance, Land Use Plus (LU), LANDIS-II, PnET-Succession, seed dispersal, tree range shift

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