Forecasting effects of tree species reintroduction strategies on carbon stocks in a future without historical analog
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Global Change Biology
American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was once an important component forests in the central Appalachians (USA), but it was functionally extirpated nearly a century ago. Attempts are underway to reintroduce blight‐resistant chestnut to its former range, but it is uncertain how current forest composition, climate, and atmospheric changes and disturbance regimes will interact to determine future forest dynamics and ecosystem services. The combination of novel environmental conditions (e.g. climate change), a reintroduced tree species and new disturbance regimes (e.g. exotic insect pests, fire suppression) have no analog in the past that can be used to parameterize phenomenological models. We therefore used a mechanistic approach within the LANDIS‐II forest landscape model that relies on physiological first principles to project forest dynamics as the outcome of competition of tree cohorts for light and water as a function of temperature, precipitation, CO2 concentration, and life history traits. We conducted a factorial landscape simulation experiment to evaluate specific hypotheses about future forest dynamics in two study sites in the center of the former range of chestnut. Our results supported the hypotheses that climate change would favor chestnut because of its optimal temperature range and relative drought resistance, and that chestnut would be less competitive in the more mesic Appalachian Plateau province because competitors will be less stressed. The hypothesis that chestnut will increase carbon stocks was supported, although the increase was modest. Our results confirm that aggressive restoration is needed regardless of climate and soils, and that increased aggressiveness of chestnut restoration increased biomass accumulation. The hypothesis that chestnut restoration will increase both compositional and structural richness was not supported because chestnut displaced some species and age cohorts. Although chestnut restoration did not markedly enhance carbon stocks, our findings provide hope that this formerly important species can be successfully reintroduced and associated ecosystem services recovered.
KeywordsAmerican chestnut Castanea dentata central Appalachians climate change elevated CO2 forest carbon stocks forest succession LANDIS-II PnET-Succession
Gustafson, Eric J.; Sturtevant, Brian R.; de Bruijn, Arjan M. G.; Lichti, Nathanael; Jacobs, Douglass F.; Kashian, Daniel M.; Miranda, Brian R.; Townsend, Philip A. 2018. Forecasting effects of tree species reintroduction strategies on carbon stocks in a future without historical analog. Global Change Biology. 24(11): 5500-5517. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14397.