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Potential response of pacific northwestern forests to climatic change, effects of stand age and initial composition


We used an individual-based forest simulator (a gap model) to assess the potential effects of anthropogenic climatic change on conifer forests of the Pacific Northwestern United States. Steady-state simulations suggested that forest zones could be shifted on the order of 500–1000 m in elevation, which could lead to the local extirpation of some high-altitude species. For low-elevation sites, species which currently are more abundant hundreds of kilometers to the south would be favored under greenhouse scenarios. Simulations of transient responses suggested that forest stands could show complex responses depending on initial species composition, stand age and canopy development, and the magnitude and duration of climatic warming. Assumptions about species response to temperature, which are crucial to the model's behaviors, were evaluated using data on species temperature limits inferred from regional distributions. The high level of within-species variability in these data, and other confounding factors influencing species distributions, argue against over-interpreting simulations. We suggest how we might resolve critical uncertainties with further research.

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Urban, D.L., Harmon, M.E. & Halpern, C.B. Potential response of pacific northwestern forests to climatic change, effects of stand age and initial composition. Climatic Change 23, 247–266 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01091618

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  • Forest Zone
  • Anthropogenic Climatic Change
  • Species Temperature
  • Canopy Development
  • Initial Species