Predictive models of forest dynamics

Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group, Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK.
Science (Impact Factor: 31.48). 07/2008; 320(5882):1452-3. DOI: 10.1126/science.1155359
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) have shown that forest dynamics could dramatically alter the response of the global climate system to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide over the next century. But there is little agreement between different DGVMs, making forest dynamics one of the greatest sources of uncertainty in predicting future climate. DGVM predictions could be strengthened by integrating the ecological realities of biodiversity and height-structured competition for light, facilitated by recent advances in the mathematics of forest modeling, ecological understanding of diverse forest communities, and the availability of forest inventory data.

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    ABSTRACT: 1. Plant functional traits, in particular specific leaf area (SLA), wood density and seed mass, are often good predictors of individual tree growth rates within communities. Individuals and species with high SLA, low wood density and small seeds tend to have faster growth rates. 2. If community-level relationships between traits and growth have general predictive value, then similar relationships should also be observed in analyses that integrate across taxa, biogeographic regions and environments. Such global consistency would imply that traits could serve as valuable proxies for the complex suite of factors that determine growth rate, and, therefore, could underpin a new generation of robust dynamic vegetation models. Alternatively, growth rates may depend more strongly on the local environment or growth–trait relationships may vary along environmental gradients. 3. We tested these alternative hypotheses using data on 27 352 juvenile trees, representing 278 species from 27 sites on all forested continents, and extensive functional trait data, 38% of which were obtained at the same sites at which growth was assessed. Data on potential evapotranspiration (PET), which summarizes the joint ecological effects of temperature and precipitation, were obtained from a global data base. 4. We estimated size-standardized relative height growth rates (SGR) for all species, then related them to functional traits and PET using mixed-effect models for the fastest growing species and for all species together. 5. Both the mean and 95th percentile SGR were more strongly associated with functional traits than with PET. PET was unrelated to SGR at the global scale. SGR increased with increasing SLA and decreased with increasing wood density and seed mass, but these traits explained only 3.1% of the variation in SGR. SGR–trait relationships were consistently weak across families and biogeographic zones, and over a range of tree statures. Thus, the most widely studied functional traits in plant ecology were poor predictors of tree growth over large scales. 6. Synthesis. We conclude that these functional traits alone may be unsuitable for predicting growth of trees over broad scales. Determining the functional traits that predict vital rates under specific environmental conditions may generate more insight than a monolithic global relationship can offer.
    Journal of Ecology 04/2015; in press. DOI:10.1111/1365-2745.12401 · 5.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Over the past decade, the neutral theory of biodiversity has stirred up community assembly theory considerably by suggesting that stochasticity in the form of ecological drift is an important factor determining community composition and community turnover. The neutral theory assumes that all species within a community are functionally equivalent (the neutrality assumption), and therefore applies best to communities of trophically similar species. Evidently, trophically similar species may still differ in dispersal ability, and therefore may not be completely functionally equivalent. Here we present a new sampling formula that takes into account the partitioning of a community into two guilds that differ in immigration rate. We show that, using this sampling formula, we can accurately detect a subdivision into guilds from species abundance distributions, given ecological data about dispersal ability. We apply our sampling formula to tropical tree data from Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Tropical trees are divided depending on their dispersal mode, where biotically dispersed trees are grouped as one guild, and abiotically dispersed trees represent another guild. We find that breaking neutrality by adding guild structure to the neutral model significantly improves the fit to data and provides a better understanding of community assembly on BCI. Our findings are thus an important step towards an integration of neutral and niche theory. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Journal of Theoretical Biology 03/2015; 374. DOI:10.1016/j.jtbi.2015.03.018 · 2.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Allometry and growth rates of 8 forest species in the UK. The data were collected from two United Kingdom woodlands - Wytham Woods and Alice Holt. Here we present data from 582 individual trees of eight taxa in the form of summary variables. In addition the raw data files containing the variables from which the summary data were obtained. Large sample sizes with longitudinal data spanning 22 years make these datasets useful for future studies concerned with the way trees change in size and shape over their life-span. The allometric relationships include (1) trunk diameter, (2) height, (3) crown height, (4) crown radius and (5) trunk radial growth rate to (A) the light environment of each tree and (B) diameter at breast height.
    02/2015; 2. DOI:10.1038/sdata.2015.6


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