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Declines in low-elevation subalpine tree populations outpace growth in high-elevation populations with warming, 2017


Conlisk, Erin, Castanha, Cristina, Germino, Matthew J., Veblen, Thomas T., Smith, Jeremy M., Kueppers, Lara M.


Journal of Ecology
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12750
NWT Accession Number: NWT1916

Abstract

1. Species distribution shifts in response to climate change require that recruitment increase beyond current range boundaries. For trees with long lifespans, the importance of climate-sensitive seedling establishment to the pace of range shifts has not been demonstrated quantitatively.
2. Using spatially explicit, stochastic population models combined with data from long-term forest surveys, we explored whether the climate-sensitivity of recruitment observed in climate manipulation experiments was sufficient to alter populations and elevation ranges of two widely distributed, high-elevation North American conifers.
3. Empirically observed, warming-driven declines in recruitment led to rapid modeled population declines at the low-elevation, “warm edge” of subalpine forest and slow emergence of populations beyond the high-elevation, “cool edge”. Because population declines in the forest occurred much faster than population emergence in the alpine, we observed range contraction for both species. For Engelmann spruce, this contraction was permanent over the modeled time horizon, even in the presence of increased moisture. For limber pine, lower sensitivity to warming may facilitate persistence at low elevations – especially in the presence of increased moisture – and rapid establishment above treeline, and, ultimately, expansion into the alpine.

Keywords

subalpine forest, treeline, climate change, range shift, time lag, demographic model, conifer

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Field Location(s):

C1Subalpine forestTreelineAlpine zoneS slope of Niwot Ridge

Related Data by Discipline(s):

Plant/vegetation ecology

Citation

Conlisk, Erin, Castanha, Cristina, Germino, Matthew J., Veblen, Thomas T., Smith, Jeremy M., Kueppers, Lara M., (2017) Declines in low-elevation subalpine tree populations outpace growth in high-elevation populations with warming. Journal of Ecology , DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12750

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CU Boulder

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-1637686. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necesarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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