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Study of landscape change under forest harvesting and climate warming-induced fire disturbance

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Hong, S. He; Mladenoff, David J.; Gustafson, Eric J.

Year Published



Forest Ecology and Management 155 (2002) 257?270


We examined tree species responses under forest harvesting and an increased fire disturbance scenario due to climate warming in northern Wisconsin where northern hardwood and boreal forests are currently predominant. Individual species response at the ecosystem scale was simulated with a gap model, which integrates soil, climate and species data, stratified by ecoregions. Such responses were quantified as species establishment coefficients. These coefficients were used to parameterize a spatially explicit landscape model, LANDIS. Species response to climate warming at the landscape scale was simulated with LANDIS, which integrates ecosystem dynamics with spatial processes including seed dispersal, fire disturbance, and forest harvesting. Under a 5 degrees C annual temperature increase predicted by global climate models (GCM), our simulation results suggest that significant change in species composition and abundance could occur in the two ecoregions in the study area. In the glacial lake plain (lakeshore) ecoregion under warming conditions, boreal and northern hardwood species such as red oak, sugar maple, white pine, balsam fir, paper birch, yellow birch, and aspen decline gradually during and after climate warming. Southern species such as white ash, hickory, bur oak, black oak, and white oak, which are present in minor amounts before the warming, increase in abundance on the landscape. The transition of the northern hardwood and boreal forest to one dominated by southern species occurs around year 200. In the sand barrens ecoregion under warming conditions, red pine initially benefits from the decline of other northern hardwood species, and its abundance quickly increases. However, red pine and jack pine as well as new southern species are unable to reproduce, and the ecoregion could transform into a region with only grass and shrub species around 250 years under warming climate. Increased fire frequency can accelerate the decline of shadetolerant species such as balsam fir and sugar maple and accelerate the northward migration of southern species. Forest harvesting accelerated the decline of northern hardwood and boreal tree species. This is especially obvious on the barrens ecoregion, where the intensive cutting regime contributed to the decline of red pine and jack pine already under stressed environments. Forest managers may instead consider a conservative cutting plan or protective management scenarios with limited forest harvesting. This could prolong the transformation of the barrens into prairie from one-half to one tree life cycle.


Hong, S. He; Mladenoff, David J.; Gustafson, Eric J. 2002. Study of landscape change under forest harvesting and climate warming-induced fire disturbance. Forest Ecology and Management 155 (2002) 257?270

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