Is climate an important driver of post‐European vegetation change in the Eastern United States?

Is climate an important driver of post‐European vegetation change in the Eastern United States? Many ecological phenomena combine to direct vegetation trends over time, with climate and disturbance playing prominent roles. To help decipher their relative importance during Euro‐American times, we employed a unique approach whereby tree species/genera were partitioned into temperature, shade tolerance, and pyrogenicity classes and applied to comparative tree‐census data. Our megadata analysis of 190 datasets determined the relative impacts of climate vs. altered disturbance regimes for various biomes across the eastern United States. As the Euro‐American period (ca. 1500 to today) spans two major climatic periods, from Little Ice Age to the Anthropocene, vegetation changes consistent with warming were expected. In most cases, however, European disturbance overrode regional climate, but in a manner that varied across the Tension Zone Line. To the north, intensive and expansive early European disturbance resulted in the ubiquitous loss of conifers and large increases of Acer, Populus, and Quercus in northern hardwoods, whereas to the south, these disturbances perpetuated the dominance of Quercus in central hardwoods. Acer increases and associated mesophication in Quercus‐Pinus systems were delayed until mid 20th century fire suppression. This led to significant warm to cool shifts in temperature class where cool‐adapted Acer saccharum increased and temperature neutral changes where warm‐adapted Acer rubrum increased. In both cases, these shifts were attributed to fire suppression rather than climate change. Because mesophication is ongoing, eastern US forests formed during the catastrophic disturbance era followed by fire suppression will remain in climate disequilibrium into the foreseeable future. Overall, the results of our study suggest that altered disturbance regimes rather than climate had the greatest influence on vegetation composition and dynamics in the eastern United States over multiple centuries. Land‐use change often trumped or negated the impacts of warming climate, and needs greater recognition in climate change discussions, scenarios, and model interpretations. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Global Change Biology Wiley

Is climate an important driver of post‐European vegetation change in the Eastern United States?

Loading next page...
 
/lp/wiley/is-climate-an-important-driver-of-post-european-vegetation-change-in-TZGIj1wh0E
Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
ISSN
1354-1013
eISSN
1365-2486
DOI
10.1111/gcb.12663
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Many ecological phenomena combine to direct vegetation trends over time, with climate and disturbance playing prominent roles. To help decipher their relative importance during Euro‐American times, we employed a unique approach whereby tree species/genera were partitioned into temperature, shade tolerance, and pyrogenicity classes and applied to comparative tree‐census data. Our megadata analysis of 190 datasets determined the relative impacts of climate vs. altered disturbance regimes for various biomes across the eastern United States. As the Euro‐American period (ca. 1500 to today) spans two major climatic periods, from Little Ice Age to the Anthropocene, vegetation changes consistent with warming were expected. In most cases, however, European disturbance overrode regional climate, but in a manner that varied across the Tension Zone Line. To the north, intensive and expansive early European disturbance resulted in the ubiquitous loss of conifers and large increases of Acer, Populus, and Quercus in northern hardwoods, whereas to the south, these disturbances perpetuated the dominance of Quercus in central hardwoods. Acer increases and associated mesophication in Quercus‐Pinus systems were delayed until mid 20th century fire suppression. This led to significant warm to cool shifts in temperature class where cool‐adapted Acer saccharum increased and temperature neutral changes where warm‐adapted Acer rubrum increased. In both cases, these shifts were attributed to fire suppression rather than climate change. Because mesophication is ongoing, eastern US forests formed during the catastrophic disturbance era followed by fire suppression will remain in climate disequilibrium into the foreseeable future. Overall, the results of our study suggest that altered disturbance regimes rather than climate had the greatest influence on vegetation composition and dynamics in the eastern United States over multiple centuries. Land‐use change often trumped or negated the impacts of warming climate, and needs greater recognition in climate change discussions, scenarios, and model interpretations.

Journal

Global Change BiologyWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2015

References

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create folders to
organize your research

Export folders, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off