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The impact of future forest dynamics on climate: interactive effects of changing vegetation and disturbance regimes.


ABSTRACT: 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.

SUBMITTER: Thom D 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5884431 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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