Intensive ground vegetation growth mitigates the carbon loss after forest disturbance.
ABSTRACT: Aims:Slow or failed tree regeneration after forest disturbance is increasingly observed in the central European Alps, potentially amplifying the carbon (C) loss from disturbance. We aimed at quantifying C dynamics of a poorly regenerating disturbance site with a special focus on the role of non-woody ground vegetation. Methods:Soil CO2 efflux, fine root biomass, ground vegetation biomass, tree increment and litter input were assessed in (i) an undisturbed section of a ~ 110 years old Norway spruce stand, (ii) in a disturbed section which was clear-cut six years ago (no tree regeneration), and (iii) in a disturbed section which was clear-cut three years ago (no tree regeneration). Results:Total soil CO2 efflux was similar across all stand sections (8.5 ± 0.2 to 8.9 ± 0.3 t C ha-1 yr.-1). The undisturbed forest served as atmospheric C sink (2.1 t C ha-1 yr.-1), whereas both clearings were C sources to the atmosphere. The source strength three years after disturbance (-5.5 t C ha-1 yr.-1) was almost twice as high as six years after disturbance (-2.9 t C ha-1 yr.-1), with declining heterotrophic soil respiration and the high productivity of dense graminoid ground vegetation mitigating C loss. Conclusions:C loss after disturbance decreases with time and ground vegetation growth. Dense non-woody ground vegetation cover can hamper tree regeneration but simultaneously decrease the ecosystem C loss. The role of ground vegetation should be more explicitly taken into account in forest C budgets assessing disturbance effects.
Project description:1. The ongoing changes to climate challenge the conservation of forest biodiversity. Yet, in thermally limited systems, such as temperate forests, not all species groups might be affected negatively. Furthermore, simultaneous changes in the disturbance regime have the potential to mitigate climate-related impacts on forest species. Here, we (i) investigated the potential long-term effect of climate change on biodiversity in a mountain forest landscape, (ii) assessed the effects of different disturbance frequencies, severities and sizes and (iii) identified biodiversity hotspots at the landscape scale to facilitate conservation management. 2. We employed the model iLand to dynamically simulate the tree vegetation on 13 865 ha of the Kalkalpen National Park in Austria over 1000 years, and investigated 36 unique combinations of different disturbance and climate scenarios. We used simulated changes in tree cover and composition as well as projected temperature and precipitation to predict changes in the diversity of Araneae, Carabidae, ground vegetation, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Mollusca, saproxylic beetles, Symphyta and Syrphidae, using empirical response functions. 3. Our findings revealed widely varying responses of biodiversity indicators to climate change. Five indicators showed overall negative effects, with Carabidae, saproxylic beetles and tree species diversity projected to decrease by more than 33%. Six indicators responded positively to climate change, with Hymenoptera, Mollusca and Syrphidae diversity projected to increase more than twofold. 4. Disturbances were generally beneficial for the studied indicators of biodiversity. Our results indicated that increasing disturbance frequency and severity have a positive effect on biodiversity, while increasing disturbance size has a moderately negative effect. Spatial hotspots of biodiversity were currently found in low- to mid-elevation areas of the mountainous study landscape, but shifted to higher-elevation zones under changing climate conditions. 5.Synthesis and applications. Our results highlight that intensifying disturbance regimes may alleviate some of the impacts of climate change on forest biodiversity. However, the projected shift in biodiversity hotspots is a challenge for static conservation areas. In this regard, overlapping hotspots under current and expected future conditions highlight priority areas for robust conservation management.
Project description:Shifting cultivation has resulted in large-scale deforestation and forest degradation in the tropics; however the abandoned fallows are known to have high potential for carbon capture. The paper is an attempt to determine the forest recovery patterns following shifting cultivation by evaluating the tree species composition, diversity and abundance with respect to topographical factors in Manipur, India. We also used ordination analysis to understand the change in species composition with regard to environmental variables. The living woody biomass carbon of each fallow was quantified, and the factors affecting the recovery of carbon stock along an increasing fallow gradient was assessed. Our results showed that the species richness and basal area recovered relatively with time since abandonment, and the north-facing lower elevation fallow sites displayed higher species richness and stem density than those in higher elevations. Environmental variables had no impact on the regeneration of Elaeocarpus floribundus Blume and Castanopsis hystrix Hook. f. & Thomson ex A. DC. which suggests that they may be capable of effective restoration of degraded forest areas. As these species appear naturally in the forests, it would facilitate quicker rehabilitation and reinstate the soil nutrients making the soil reusable in a short term. We also found that fallow age plays a vital role in recovering above-ground biomass carbon from living woody species followed by the aspect of the site. The total living woody biomass carbon ranged from 0.98 Mg ha-1 in 5 years fallow to 142.58 Mg ha-1 in 20 years fallow. The above-ground biomass carbon recovery of the oldest fallow was 39% to 40% of the reference undisturbed forest and the estimated time for the shifting cultivation fallows to reach that of the undisturbed forest level was approximately 39 years to 41 years.
Project description:A current pine beetle infestation has caused extensive mortality of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) in forests of Colorado and Wyoming; it is part of an unprecedented multispecies beetle outbreak extending from Mexico to Canada. In United States and European watersheds, where atmospheric deposition of inorganic N is moderate to low (<10 kg?ha?y), disturbance of forests by timber harvest or violent storms causes an increase in stream nitrate concentration that typically is close to 400% of predisturbance concentrations. In contrast, no significant increase in streamwater nitrate concentrations has occurred following extensive tree mortality caused by the mountain pine beetle in Colorado. A model of nitrate release from Colorado watersheds calibrated with field data indicates that stimulation of nitrate uptake by vegetation components unaffected by beetles accounts for significant nitrate retention in beetle-infested watersheds. The combination of low atmospheric N deposition (<10 kg?ha?y), tree mortality spread over multiple years, and high compensatory capacity associated with undisturbed residual vegetation and soils explains the ability of these beetle-infested watersheds to retain nitrate despite catastrophic mortality of the dominant canopy tree species.
Project description:Currently, the temperate forest biome cools the earth's climate and dampens anthropogenic climate change. However, climate change will substantially alter forest dynamics in the future, affecting the climate regulation function of forests. Increasing natural disturbances can reduce carbon uptake and evaporative cooling, but at the same time increase the albedo of a landscape. Simultaneous changes in vegetation composition can mitigate disturbance impacts, but also influence climate regulation directly (e.g., via albedo changes). As a result of a number of interactive drivers (changes in climate, vegetation, and disturbance) and their simultaneous effects on climate-relevant processes (carbon exchange, albedo, latent heat flux) the future climate regulation function of forests remains highly uncertain. Here we address these complex interactions to assess the effect of future forest dynamics on the climate system. Our specific objectives were (1) to investigate the long-term interactions between changing vegetation composition and disturbance regimes under climate change, (2) to quantify the response of climate regulation to changes in forest dynamics, and (3) to identify the main drivers of the future influence of forests on the climate system. We investigated these issues using the individual-based forest landscape and disturbance model (iLand). Simulations were run over 200 yr for Kalkalpen National Park (Austria), assuming different future climate projections, and incorporating dynamically responding wind and bark beetle disturbances. To consistently assess the net effect on climate the simulated responses of carbon exchange, albedo, and latent heat flux were expressed as contributions to radiative forcing. We found that climate change increased disturbances (+27.7% over 200 yr) and specifically bark beetle activity during the 21st century. However, negative feedbacks from a simultaneously changing tree species composition (+28.0% broadleaved species) decreased disturbance activity in the long run (-10.1%), mainly by reducing the host trees available for bark beetles. Climate change and the resulting future forest dynamics significantly reduced the climate regulation function of the landscape, increasing radiative forcing by up to +10.2% on average over 200 yr. Overall, radiative forcing was most strongly driven by carbon exchange. We conclude that future changes in forest dynamics can cause amplifying climate feedbacks from temperate forest ecosystems.
Project description:Background:Foraging activities of wild boar (Sus scrofa) create small-scale soil disturbances in many different vegetation types. Rooting alters species composition by opening niches for less-competitive plants and, as a recurrent factor, becomes a part of the community disturbance regime. Vegetation responses to wild boar disturbance have mostly been studied in the boar's non-native range or in native forest, rather than in open habitats in the native range. We investigate the response of open European semidry grassland vegetation dominated by Brachypodium pinnatum to native wild boar pressure in an abandoned agricultural landscape. Methods:To describe the disturbance regime, we repeatedly mapped rooted patches during a 5-year period. Additionally, to study the vegetation response, we performed an artificial disturbance experiment by creating 30 pairs of simulated disturbances and undisturbed plots. The vegetation composition of the paired plots was repeatedly sampled five times in eight years of the study. Results:Based on repeated mapping of disturbances, we predict that if the disturbance regime we observed during the 5-year period were maintained over the long term, it would yield a stable vegetation ratio consisting of 98.7% of the grassland undisturbed, 0.4% with fresh disturbance, and 0.9% in older successional stages.Vegetation composition in the artificially disturbed plots was continuously converging to that of undisturbed vegetation, but these disturbed plots still differed significantly in composition and had higher species number, even after eight years of succession. Synthesis:Our results thus show that wild boar disturbance regime in its native range increases heterogeneity and species diversity of semidry grassland vegetation.
Project description:Opportunities to directly study infrequent forest disturbance events often lead to valuable information about vegetation dynamics. In mesic temperate forests of North America, stand-replacing crown fire occurs infrequently, with a return interval of 2000-3000 years. Rare chance events, however, may have profound impacts on the developmental trajectories of forest ecosystems. For example, it has been postulated that stand-replacing fire may have been an important factor in the establishment of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) stands in the northern Great Lakes region. Nevertheless, experimental evidence linking hemlock regeneration to non-anthropogenic fire is limited. To clarify this potential relationship, we monitored vegetation dynamics following a rare lightning-origin crown fire in a Wisconsin hemlock-hardwood forest. We also studied vegetation in bulldozer-created fire breaks and adjacent undisturbed forest. Our results indicate that hemlock establishment was rare in the burned area but moderately common in the scarified bulldozer lines compared to the reference area. Early-successional, non-arboreal species including Rubus spp., Vaccinium angustifolium, sedges (Carex spp.), grasses, Epilobium ciliatum, and Pteridium aquilinium were the most abundant post-fire species. Collectively, our results suggest that competing vegetation and moisture stress resulting from drought may reduce the efficacy of scarification treatments as well as the usefulness of fire for preparing a suitable seedbed for hemlock. The increasing prevalence of growing-season drought suggests that silvicultural strategies based on historic disturbance regimes may need to be reevaluated for mesic species.
Project description:The responses of tropical forests to global anthropogenic disturbances remain poorly understood. Above-ground woody biomass in some tropical forest plots has increased over the past several decades, potentially reflecting a widespread response to increased resource availability, for example, due to elevated atmospheric CO2 and/or nutrient deposition. However, previous studies of biomass dynamics have not accounted for natural patterns of disturbance and gap phase regeneration, making it difficult to quantify the importance of environmental changes. Using spatially explicit census data from large (50 ha) inventory plots, we investigated the influence of gap phase processes on the biomass dynamics of four 'old-growth' tropical forests (Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama; Pasoh and Lambir, Malaysia; and Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK), Thailand). We show that biomass increases were gradual and concentrated in earlier-phase forest patches, while biomass losses were generally of greater magnitude but concentrated in rarer later-phase patches. We then estimate the rate of biomass change at each site independent of gap phase dynamics using reduced major axis regressions and ANCOVA tests. Above-ground woody biomass increased significantly at Pasoh (+0.72% yr(-1)) and decreased at HKK (-0.56% yr(-1)) independent of changes in gap phase but remained stable at both BCI and Lambir. We conclude that gap phase processes play an important role in the biomass dynamics of tropical forests, and that quantifying the role of gap phase processes will help improve our understanding of the factors driving changes in forest biomass as well as their place in the global carbon budget.
Project description:Over the past few decades there has been a growing realization that a large share of apparently 'virgin' or 'old-growth' tropical forests carries a legacy of past natural or anthropogenic disturbances that have a substantial effect on present-day forest composition, structure and dynamics. Yet, direct evidence of such disturbances is scarce and comparisons of disturbance dynamics across regions even more so. Here we present a tree-ring based reconstruction of disturbance histories from three tropical forest sites in Bolivia, Cameroon, and Thailand. We studied temporal patterns in tree regeneration of shade-intolerant tree species, because establishment of these trees is indicative for canopy disturbance. In three large areas (140-300 ha), stem disks and increment cores were collected for a total of 1154 trees (>5 cm diameter) from 12 tree species to estimate the age of every tree. Using these age estimates we produced population age distributions, which were analyzed for evidence of past disturbance. Our approach allowed us to reconstruct patterns of tree establishment over a period of around 250 years. In Bolivia, we found continuous regeneration rates of three species and a peaked age distribution of a long-lived pioneer species. In both Cameroon and Thailand we found irregular age distributions, indicating strongly reduced regeneration rates over a period of 10-60 years. Past fires, windthrow events or anthropogenic disturbances all provide plausible explanations for the reported variation in tree age across the three sites. Our results support the recent idea that the long-term dynamics of tropical forests are impacted by large-scale disturbance-recovery cycles, similar to those driving temperate forest dynamics.
Project description:A better understanding on the consequences of drought on forests can be reached by paying special attention to their resilience capacity, i.e., the ability to return to a state similar to pre-drought conditions. Nevertheless, extreme droughts may surpass the threshold for the resilience capacity triggering die-off causing multiple changes at varying spatial and temporal scales and affecting diverse processes (tree growth and regeneration, ecosystem productivity). Combining several methodological tools allows reaching a comprehensive characterization of post-drought forest resilience. We evaluated the changes in the abundance, regeneration capacity (seedling abundance), and radial growth (annual tree rings) of the main tree species. We also assessed if drought-induced reductions in growth and regeneration of the dominant tree species scale-up to drops in vegetation productivity by using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). We studied two conifer forests located in north-eastern Spain which displayed drought-induced die-off during the last decades: a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) forest under continental Mediterranean conditions and a Silver fir (Abies alba) forest under more temperate conditions. We found a strong negative impact of a recent severe drought (2012) on Scots pine growth, whereas the coexisting Juniperus thurifera showed positive trends in basal area increment (0.02 ± 0.003 cm2 yr-1). No Scots pine recruitment was observed in sites with intense die-off, but J. thurifera and Quercus ilex recruited. The 2012 drought event translated into a strong NDVI reduction (32% lower than the 1982-2014 average). In Silver fir we found a negative impact of the 2012 drought on short-term radial growth, whilst long-term growth of Silver fir and the coexisting Fagus sylvatica showed positive trends. Growth rates were higher in F. sylvatica (0.04 ± 0.003 cm2 yr-1) than in A. alba (0.02 ± 0.004 cm2 yr-1). These two species recruited beneath declining and non-declining Silver fir trees. The 2012 drought translated into a strong NDVI reduction which lasted until 2013. The results presented here suggest two different post-drought vegetation pathways. In the Scots pine forest, the higher growth and recruitment rates of J. thurifera correspond to a vegetation shift where Scots pine is being replaced by the drought-tolerant juniper. Conversely, in the Silver fir forest there is an increase of F. sylvatica growth and abundance but no local extinction of the Silver fir. Further research is required to monitor the evolution of these forests in the forthcoming years to illustrate the cumulative impacts of drought on successional dynamics.
Project description:Forest attributes and their abundances define the stand structural complexity available as habitat for faunal biodiversity; however, intensive anthropogenic disturbances have the potential to degrade and simplify forest stands. In this paper we develop an index of stand structural complexity and show how anthropogenic disturbances, namely fire, logging, livestock, and their combined presence, affect stand structural complexity in a southern Global Biodiversity Hotspot. From 2011 to 2013, we measured forest structural attributes as well as the presence of anthropogenic disturbances in 505 plots in the Andean zone of the La Araucanía Region, Chile. In each plot, understory density, coarse woody debris, number of snags, tree diameter at breast height, and litter depth were measured, along with signs of the presence of anthropogenic disturbances. Ninety-five percent of the plots showed signs of anthropogenic disturbance (N = 475), with the combined presence of fire, logging, and livestock being the most common disturbance (N = 222; 44% of plots). The lowest values for the index were measured in plots combining fire, logging, and livestock. Undisturbed plots and plots with the presence of relatively old fires (> 70 years) showed the highest values for the index of stand structural complexity. Our results suggest that secondary forests < 70-year post-fire event, with the presence of habitat legacies (e.g. snags and CWD), can reach a structural complexity as high as undisturbed plots. Temperate forests should be managed to retain structural attributes, including understory density (7.2 ± 2.5 # contacts), volume of CWD (22.4 ± 25.8 m3/ha), snag density (94.4 ± 71.0 stems/ha), stand basal area (61.2 ± 31.4 m2/ha), and litter depth (7.5 ± 2.7 cm). Achieving these values will increase forest structural complexity, likely benefiting a range of faunal species in South American temperate forests.