, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 567-579

Transient response of forests to CO2-induced climate change: simulation modeling experiments in eastern North America

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Summary

The temporal response of forests to CO2-induced climate changes was examined for eastern North America. A forest stand simulation model was used with the assumption that climate will change at a constant rate as atmospheric CO2 doubles, and then as CO2 doubles again. Before being used to project future vegetation trends, the simulation model FORENA was verified by its ability to reproduce long, temporal sequences of plant community change recorded by fossil pollen and by its ability to reproduce today's vegetation. The simulated effects of changing monthly temperature and precipitation included a distinctive dieback of extant trees at most locations, with only partial recovery of biomass in areas of today's temperate deciduous forest. In the southern portion of today's deciduous-coniferous transition forests the simulated dieback was indistinct and recovery by deciduous tree species was rapid. In more northerly transition areas, the dieback not only was clearly expressed, but occurred twice, when new dominant species replaced extant conifers, then were themselves replaced, as climate change continued. Boreal conifers also underwent diebacks and were replaced by deciduous hardwoods more slowly in the north than in the south. Transient responses in species composition and carbon storage continued as much as 300 years after simulated climate changes ceased.

Environmental Sciences Division Publication No. 2625