Skip to main content

Projecting canopy cover change in Tasmanian eucalypt forests using dynamically downscaled regional climate models

Abstract

Loss of forest cover is a likely consequence of climate change in many parts of the world. To test the vulnerability of eucalypt forests in Australia’s island state of Tasmania, we modelled tree canopy cover in the period 2070–2099 under a high-emission scenario using the current climate–canopy cover relationship in conjunction with output from a dynamically downscaled regional climate model. The current climate–canopy cover relationship was quantified using Random Forest modelling, and the future climate projections were provided by three dynamically downscaled general circulation model (GCM) simulations. Three GCMs were used to show a range of projections for the selected scenario. We also explored the sensitivity of key endemic and non-endemic Tasmanian eucalypts to climate change. All GCMs suggested that canopy cover should remain stable (proportional cover change <10 %) across ~70 % of the Tasmanian eucalypt forests. However, there were geographic areas where all models projected a decline in canopy cover due to increased summer temperatures and lower precipitation, and in addition, all models projected an increase in canopy cover in the coldest part of the state. The model projections differed substantially for other areas. Tasmanian endemic species appear vulnerable to climate change, but species that also occur on the mainland are likely to be less affected. Given these changes, restoration and carbon sequestration plantings must consider the species and provenances most suitable for future, rather than present, climates.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  • Allen CD, Macalady AK, Chenchouni H et al (2010) A global overview of drought and heat- induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests. Forest Ecol Manag 259:660–684

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bailey T, Davidson N, Potts B, Gauli A, Hovenden M, Burgess S, Duddles J (2013) Plantings for carbon, biodiversity and restoration in dry rural landscapes of Tasmania. Australian Forest Grower, Summer 2013 Edition

  • Becknell JM, Kucek LK, Powers JS (2012) Aboveground biomass in mature and secondary seasonally dry tropical forests: a literature review and global synthesis. Forest Ecol Manag 276:88–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Booth TH (2013) Eucalypt plantations and climate change. Forest Ecol Manag 301:28–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bowman DMJS, Murphy BP, Banfai DS (2010) Has global environmental change caused monsoon rainforests to expand in the Australian monsoon tropics? Landsc Ecol 25:1247–1260

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Broadmeadow MSJ, Ray D, Samuel CJA (2005) Climate change and the future for broadleaved tree species in Britain. Forestry 78:145–161

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brodie J, Post E, Watson F, Berger J (2012) Climate change intensification of herbivore impacts on tree recruitment. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 279:1366–1370

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brouwers N, Mercer J, Lyons T, Poot P, Veneklaas E, Hardy G (2012) Climate and landscape drivers of tree decline in a Mediterranean ecoregion. Ecol Evol 3:67–79

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown PM, Wu R (2005) Climate and disturbance forcing of episodic tree recruitment in a southwestern ponderosa pine landscape. Ecology 86:3030–3038

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bureau of Rural Sciences (2008a) Australia’s state of the forests report 2008. Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra

    Google Scholar 

  • Bureau of Rural Sciences (2008b) Australian forest profiles. Eucalypts Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra

    Google Scholar 

  • Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference. A Practical Information-Theoretic Approach. Springer, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Cai WJ, Whetton PH, Karoly DJ (2003) The response of the Antarctic Oscillation to increasing and stabilized atmospheric CO2. J Clim 16:1525–1538

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calef MP, McGuire AD, Epstein HE, Rupp TS, Shugart HH (2005) Analysis of vegetation distribution in Interior Alaska and sensitivity to climate change using a logistic regression approach. J Biogeogr 32:863–878

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Kolli RK, Kwon W-T, Laprise R, Magaña Rueda V, Mearns L, Menéndez CG, Räisänen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Regional climate projections. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  • Close DC, Davidson NJ (2004) Review of rural tree decline in a changing Australian climate. Tasforests 15:1–18

    Google Scholar 

  • Corney SP, Katzfey JJ, McGregor JL et al (2010) Climate Futures for Tasmania: climate modelling technical report. Hobart, Tasmania

  • Davidson NJ, Close DC, Battaglia M et al (2007) Eucalypt health and agricultural land management within bushland remnants in the Midlands of Tasmania, Australia. Biol Conserv 139:439–446

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eldridge DJ, Bowker MA, Maestre FT, Roger E, Reynolds JF, Whitford WG (2011) Impacts of shrub encroachment on ecosystem structure and functioning: towards a global synthesis. Ecol Lett 14:709–722

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Environment Australia (2000) Revision of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalization of Australia (IBRA) and the development of version 5.1—summary report. Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra

  • Executive Steering Committee for Australian Vegetation Information (2003) National Vegetation Inventory System 3.0. Canberra, ACT

  • Fauset S, Baker TR, Lewis SL et al (2012) Drought-induced shifts in the floristic and functional composition of tropical forests in Ghana. Ecol Lett 15:1120–1129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fensham RJ, Fairfax RJ (2003) Assessing woody vegetation cover change in north-west Australian savanna using aerial photography. Int J Wildland Fire 12:359–367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fensham RJ, Fairfax RJ, Ward DP (2009) Drought-induced tree death in savanna. Global Change Biol 15:380–387

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gill AM, Belbin L, Chippendale GM (1985) Phytogeography of Eucalyptus in Australia. Bureau of Flora and Fauna, Canberra

    Google Scholar 

  • Good SP, Caylor KK (2011) Climatological determinants of woody cover in Africa. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:4902–4907

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grose MR, Barnes-Keoghan I, Corney SP et al (2010) Climate futures for Tasmania: general climate impacts technical report. Hobart, Tasmania

  • Hansen M, DeFries R, Townshend JR, Carroll M, Dimiceli C, Sohlberg R (2006) Vegetation Continuous Fields MOD44B, 2001 Percent Tree Cover, Collection 4. University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 2001

  • Heubes J, Kuhn I, Konig K, Wittig R, Zizka G, Hahn K (2011) Modelling biome shifts and tree cover change for 2050 in West Africa. J Biogeogr 38:2248–2258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffmann WA, Schroeder W, Jackson RB (2002) Positive feedbacks of fire, climate, and vegetation and the conversion of tropical savanna. Geophys Res Lett. doi:10.1029/2002GL015424

    Google Scholar 

  • Hughes L, Cawsey EM, Westoby M (1996) Geographic and climatic range sizes of Australian eucalypts and a test of Rapoport’s rule. Global Ecol Biogeogr Lett 5:128–142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hutchinson MF, Xu TB (2011) ANUCLIM version 6.1 User guide. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra

  • Ibanez I, Clark JS, LaDeau S, Hille Ris Lambers J (2007) Exploiting temporal variability to understand tree recruitment response to climate change. Ecol Monogr 77:163–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Iverson LR, Prasad AM (2002) Potential redistribution of tree species habitat under five climate change scenarios in the eastern US. Forest Ecol Manag 155:205–222

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keith H, Mackey BG, Lindenmayer DB (2009) Re-evaluation of forest biomass carbon stocks and lessons from the world’s most carbon-dense forests. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:11635–11640

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kouba Y, Camarero JJ, Alados CL (2012) Roles of land-use and climate change on the establishment and regeneration dynamics of Mediterranean semi-deciduous oak forests. Forest Ecol Manag 274:143–150

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lambeck K, Chappell J (2001) Sea level change through the last glacial cycle. Science 292:679–686

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larjavaara M, Muller-Landau HC (2012) Temperature explains global variation in biomass among humid old-growth forests. Global Ecol Biogeog 21:998–1006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liaw A, Wiener M (2002) Classification and regression by randomForest. R News 2:18–22

    Google Scholar 

  • Linares JC, Delgado-Huertas A, Carreira JA (2011) Climatic trends and different drought adaptive capacity and vulnerability in a mixed Abies pinsapo-Pinus halepensis forest. Clim Change 105:67–90

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Littell JS, Oneil EE, McKenzie D et al (2010) Forest ecosystems, disturbance, and climatic change in Washington State, USA. Clim Change 102:129–158

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lloret F, Penuelas J, Prieto P, Llorens L, Estiarte M (2009) Plant community changes induced by experimental climate change: seedling and adult species composition. Perspect Plant Ecol 11:53–63

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mäkinen H, Nojd P, Kahle HP et al (2002) Radial growth variation of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) across latitudinal and altitudinal gradients in central and northern Europe. Forest Ecol Manag 171:243–259

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matías L, Jump AS (2012) Interactions between growth, demography and biotic interactions in determining species range limits in a warming world: the case of Pinus sylvestris. Forest Ecol Manag 282:10–22

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maxime C, Hendrik D (2011) Effects of climate on diameter growth of co-occurring Fagus sylvatica and Abies alba along an altitudinal gradient. Trees 25:265–276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McGregor JL, Dix MR (2008) An updated description of the conformal-cubic atmospheric model. In: Hamilton K, Ohfuchi W (eds) High resolution numerical modelling of the atmosphere and ocean. Springer, New York, pp 51–76

  • McMurray SK (1983) An investigation of tree decline on Tasmanian farms. Masters, University of Tasmania

  • Michaelian M, Hogg EH, Hall RJ, Arsenault E (2011) Massive mortality of aspen following severe drought along the southern edge of the Canadian boreal forest. Global Change Biol 17:2084–2094

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mitchard ETA, Saatchi SS, Gerard FF, Lewis SL, Meir P (2009) Measuring WoodyEncroachment along a Forest-Savanna Boundary in Central Africa. Earth Interact 13:1–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mok H-F, Arndt SK, Nitschke CR (2012) Modelling the potential impact of climate variability and change on species regeneration potential in the temperate forests of South-Eastern Australia. Global Change Biol 18:1053–1072

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Murphy BP, Bowman DJMS (2012) What controls the distribution of tropical forest and savanna? Ecol Lett 15:748–758

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nakićenović N, Swart R (2000) Special report on emissions scenarios. A special report of working group III of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge, pp 599

  • North M, Hurteau M, Fiegener R, Barbour M (2005) Influence of fire and El Nino on tree recruitment varies by species in Sierran mixed conifer. Forest Sci 51:187–197

    Google Scholar 

  • Notaro M (2008) Response of the mean global vegetation distribution to interannual climate variability. Clim Dyn 30:845–854

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pekin BK, Boer MM, Macfarlane C, Grierson PF (2009) Impacts of increased fire frequency and aridity on eucalypt forest structure, biomass and composition in southwest Australia. Forest Ecol Manag 258:2136–2142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Peñuelas J, Canadell JG, Ogaya R (2011) Increased water-use efficiency during the 20th century did not translate into enhanced tree growth. Global Ecol Biogeogr 20:597–608

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Phillips OL, Lewis SL, Baker TR, Chao KJ, Higuchi N (2008) The changing Amazon forest. Philos T R Soc B 363:1819–1827

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prior LD, Williamson GJ, Bowman DMJS (2011) Using permanent forestry plots to understand the possible effects of climate change on Australia’s production forest estate. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra

  • Prior LD, Sanders GJ, Bridle KL, Nichols SC, Harris R, Bowman DJMS (2013) Land clearance not dieback continues to drive tree loss in a Tasmanian rural landscape. Reg Environ Change. doi:10.1007/s10113-012-0396-0

    Google Scholar 

  • Rabus B, Eineder M, Roth A, Bamler R (2003) The shuttle radar topography mission—a new class of digital elevation models acquired by spaceborne radar. ISPRS J Photogramm 57:241–262

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reich PB, Oleksyn J (2008) Climate warming will reduce growth and survival of Scots pine except in the far north. Ecol Lett 11:588–597

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanger JC, Davidson NJ, O'Grady AP, Close DC (2011) Are the patterns of regeneration in the endangered Eucalyptus gunnii ssp. divaricata shifting in response to climate? Aust Ecol 36(6):612–620

    Google Scholar 

  • Sankaran M, Ratnam J, Hanan N (2008) Woody cover in African savannas: the role of resources, fire and herbivory. Global Ecol Biogeogr 17:236–245

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sherwin GL, George L, Kannangara K, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O (2013) Impact of industrial- age climate change on the relationship between water uptake and tissue nitrogen in eucalypt seedlings. Funct Plant Biol 40:201–212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silva LCR, Anand M (2013) Probing for the influence of atmospheric CO2 and climate change on forest ecosystems across biomes. Global Ecol Biogeogr 22:83–92

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sitch S, Huntingford C, Gedney N et al (2008) Evaluation of the terrestrial carbon cycle, future plant geography and climate-carbon cycle feedbacks using five dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs). Global Change Biol 14:2015–2039

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stegen JC, Swenson NG, Enquist BJ et al (2011) Variation in above-ground forest biomass across broad climatic gradients. Global Ecol Biogeogr 20:744–754

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sterling S, Ducharne A (2008) Comprehensive data set of global land cover change for land surface model applications. Global Biogeochem Cycle. doi:10.1029/2007gb002959

    Google Scholar 

  • Tchebakova NM, Parfenova EI, Soja AJ (2011) Climate change and climate-induced hot spots in forest shifts in central Siberia from observed data. Reg Environ Change 11:817–827

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thackway R, Donohue RJ, Smart R (2004) Integrated regional vegetation information—a compilation of vegetation types for National Action Plan and Natural Heritage Trust regions. Canberra, ACT

  • Tng DYP, Williamson GJ, Jordan GJ, Bowman DMJS (2012) Giant eucalypts—globally unique fire-adapted rain-forest trees? New Phytol 196:1001–1014

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • van Mantgem PJ, Stephenson NL, Byrne JC et al (2009) Widespread Increase of tree mortality rates in the western United States. Science 323:521–524

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • VanDerWal J, Falconi L, Januchowski S, Shoo L, Storlie C (2012). SDMTools: species distribution modelling tools: tools for processing data associated with species distribution modelling exercises. R package version 1.1-13. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=SDMTools

  • White C, McInnes K, Cechet R, Corney S, Grose M, Holz G, Katzfey J, Bindoff N (2013) On regional dynamical downscaling for the assessment and projection of temperature and precipitation extremes across Tasmania, Australia. Clim Dyn. doi:10.1007/s00382-013-1718-8

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams AP, Allen CD, Millar CI et al (2010) Forest responses to increasing aridity and warmth in the southwestern United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:21289–21294

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wiltshire R, Potts B (2007) Eucaflip. Life-size guide to the eucalypts of Tasmania. University of Tasmania, Hobart

    Google Scholar 

  • Yin JH (2005) A consistent poleward shift of storm tracks in simulations of 21st Century climate. Geophys Res Lett 32:L18701

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This work was funded by Greening Australia and Australian Research Council Grant LP 0991026 and the Landscape and Policy Research hub supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (http://www.nerplandscapes.edu.au). We would like to thank Luciana Porfirio for assistance with the ANUCLIM climate surfaces, and Leanne Webb and Marie Ekström for comments on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Grant J. Williamson.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 958 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Williamson, G.J., Prior, L.D., Grose, M.R. et al. Projecting canopy cover change in Tasmanian eucalypt forests using dynamically downscaled regional climate models. Reg Environ Change 14, 1373–1386 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0577-5

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0577-5

Keywords

  • Eucalyptus
  • Forest biomass
  • Climate change
  • General circulation model
  • Temperature
  • Rainfall