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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Climate remains an important driver of post-European vegetation change in the eastern United States

Authors:

Neil Pederson

Anthony D'Amato

James Dyer

David Foster

David Goldblum

Justin Hart

Amy Hessl

Louis Iverson

Stephen Jackson

Dario Martin-Benito

Brian McCarthy

Ryan McEwan

David Mladenoff

Albert Parker

Bryan Shuman

John Williams

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
2015
Secondary Title:
Global Change Biology
DOI:
10.1111/gcb.12779
Pages:
2105-2110
Volume:
21
Year:
2015
Date:
Jan-06-2015
URL:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12779/abstract

Abstract

The influence of climate on forest change during the past century in the eastern United States was evaluated in a recent paper (Nowacki & Abrams, 2014) that centers on an increase in 'highly competitive mesophytic hardwoods' (Nowacki & Abrams, 2008) and a concomitant decrease in the more xerophytic Quercus species. Nowacki & Abrams (2014) concluded that climate change has not contributed significantly to observed changes in forest composition. However, the authors restrict their focus to a single element of climate: increasing temperature since the end of the Little Ice Age ca. 150 years ago. In their study, species were binned into four classifications (e.g., Acer saccharum – 'cool-adapted', Acer rubrum – 'warm-adapted') based on average annual temperature within each species range in the United States, reducing the multifaceted character of climate into a single, categorical measure. The broad temperature classes not only veil the many biologically relevant aspects of temperature (e.g., seasonal and extreme temperatures) but they may also mask other influences, both climatic (e.g., moisture sensitivity) and nonclimatic (e.g., competition).