Please Step Away From the Model: Improving estimates of coniferous forest regeneration and persistence by studying patterns and mechanisms in real life

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M.D. Petrie, J.B. Bradford, R.M. Hubbard

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Computational modeling-based research forecasts severe reductions in the persistence of semiarid coniferous forests in western North America, resulting from declines in juvenile survival in both natural and post-disturbance landscapes. This presents an interesting ecological situation where the importance of a process has been identified, yet very little is actually known about it. In this presentation we will overview research that seeks to elucidate a set of important mechanisms associated with biotic and abiotic controls on juvenile ponderosa pine survival. The first part includes extensive field surveys to characterize the growth characteristics of juvenile ponderosa pines and other conifers, and attribution of tree cohort development to climatic versus edaphic-environmental control. The second part is comprised of a manipulative field experiment to better understand how small precipitation changes, microclimate, and population stress tolerance influence juvenile ponderosa pine survival. We will then show how insights from this research can be used to improve estimates of regeneration-associated forest persistence in scenarios of future climate change, and can also be used to direct forest management towards the locations and actions that are most likely to be successful in the future. In total, this research will illustrate how targeted research on fine-scale patterns and mechanisms may be used to substantially improve simulation-based understanding of the scope and scale of an ecological process that is expected to become more substantial and problematic in a changing climate.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program