Original paper

Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 209-220

Interactions between climate change, competition, dispersal, and disturbances in a tree migration model

  • Paul CaplatAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Biology, University of GuelphDepartment of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Guelph Email author 
  • , Madhur AnandAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph
  • , Chris BauchAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Guelph

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Potentially significant shifts in the geographical patterns of vegetation are an expected result of climate change. However, the importance of local processes (e.g., dispersal, competition, or disturbance) has been often ignored in climate change modeling. We develop an individual-based simulation approach to assess how these mechanisms affect migration rate. We simulate the northward progression of a theoretical tree species when climate change makes northern habitat suitable. We test how the rate of progression is affected by (1) competition with a resident species, (2) interactions with disturbance regimes, (3) species dispersal kernel, and (4) the intensity of climate change over time. Results reveal a strong response of species’ expansion rate to the presence of a local competitor, as well as nonlinear effects of disturbance. We discuss these results in light of current knowledge of northern forest dynamics and results found in the climatic research literature.


Forest dynamics Simulation model Disturbance regime Species range Boreal forest Tree colonization