Complex interactions among successional trajectories and climate govern spatial resilience after severe windstorms in central Wisconsin, USA

  • Melissa S. LucashEmail author
  • Kelsey L. Ruckert
  • Robert E. Nicholas
  • Robert M. Scheller
  • Erica A. H. Smithwick
Research Article



Resilience is a concept central to the field of ecology, but our understanding of resilience is not sufficient to predict when and where large changes in species composition might occur following disturbances, particularly under climate change.


Our objective was to estimate how wind disturbance shapes landscape-level patterns of engineering resilience, defined as the recovery of total biomass and species composition after a windstorm, under climate change in central Wisconsin.


We used a spatially-explicit, forest simulation model (LANDIS-II) to simulate how windstorms and climate change affect forest succession and used boosted regression tree analysis to isolate the important drivers of resilience.


At mid-century, biomass fully recovered to current conditions, but neither biomass nor species composition completely recovered at the end of the century. As expected, resilience was lower in the south, but by the end of the century, resilience was low throughout the landscape. Disturbance and species’ characteristics (e.g., the amount of area disturbed and the number of species) explained half of the variation in resilience, while temperature and soil moisture comprised only 17% collectively.


Our results illustrate substantial spatial patterns of resilience at landscape scales, while documenting the potential for overall declines in resilience through time. Species diversity and windstorm size were far more important than temperature and soil moisture in driving long term trends in resilience. Finally, our research highlights the utility of using machine learning (e.g., boosted regression trees) to discern the underlying mechanisms of landscape-scale processes when using complex spatially-interactive and non-deterministic simulation models.


Climate change Windstorms Resilience Forest simulation model LANDIS-II 



Funding was provided by NSF CNH Grant #1617396. We acknowledge substantial contributions by Ty Wilson who gave us access to all his nearest neighbor maps and provided technical support for our biomass calculations using USDA Forest Inventory data. We also appreciate Jared Oyler’s assistance in preparation of the climate forcing data.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_929_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3454 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Earth and Environmental Systems InstituteThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  5. 5.RPSSouth KingstownUSA

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