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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Changes in forest biomass and tree species distribution under climate change in the northeastern United States

Authors:

Wen Wang

Hong He

Frank Thompson

Jacob Fraser

William Dijak

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
2016
Secondary Title:
Landscape Ecology
ISSN:
0921-2973
DOI:
10.1007/s10980-016-0429-z
Year:
2016
Date:
Jan-08-2017
URL:
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007\%2Fs10980-016-0429-z

Abstract

Context

Forests in the northeastern United States are currently in early- and mid-successional stages recovering from historical land use. Climate change will affect forest distribution and structure and have important implications for biodiversity, carbon dynamics, and human well-being.

Objective

We addressed how aboveground biomass (AGB) and tree species distribution changed under multiple climate change scenarios (PCM B1, CGCM A2, and GFDL A1FI) in northeastern forests.

Methods

We used the LANDIS PRO forest landscape model to simulate forest succession and tree harvest under current climate and three climate change scenarios from 2000 to 2300. We analyzed the effects of climate change on AGB and tree species distribution.

Results

AGB increased from 2000 to 2120 irrespective of climate scenario, followed by slight decline, but then increased again to 2300. AGB averaged 10 % greater in the CGCM A2 and GFDL A1FI scenarios than the PCM B1 and current climate scenarios. Climate change effects on tree species distribution were not evident from 2000 to 2100 but by 2300 some northern hardwood and conifer species decreased in occurrence and some central hardwood and southern tree species increased in occurrence.

Conclusions

Climate change had positive effects on forest biomass under the two climate scenarios with greatest warming but the patterns in AGB over time were similar among climate scenarios because succession was the primary driver of AGB dynamics. Our approach, which simulated stand dynamics and dispersal, demonstrated that a northward shift in tree species distributions may take 300 or more years.