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Continent-wide Forest Change Driven by Indirect Climate Effects on Fecundity

January 25 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm UTC-6

Rice University’s Weiss School of Natural Sciences ( presents James Clark, Ph.D., professor of global environmental change at Duke University.

Description: “The composition and structure of twenty-first century forests will depend on the seed production needed for tree populations to keep pace with climate change. North America is warming and drying out in much of the West. The dramatic impacts include large-scale die-backs that are transforming size-species structure. But the decade-scale trends will depend on the regeneration that follows tree death.

“Fecundity will determine the capacity of trees to disperse seed to the shifting habitats where they can survive in the future; risks to each species depend not only on the current distribution of fecundity, but also on its trajectory. As with many ecological processes, noisy, spatially-variable fecundity trends are hard to quantify, but this is only the first problem. Attribution of trends to environmental variables is complicated by individual size, growth, and resource access. Conservation efforts must anticipate not just the direct climate effects on this trajectory, but also the indirect effects as climate affects growth and changing size structure.

“Because it has thus far been impossible to estimate at continental scales, fecundity is the only major demographic process that lacks field-based estimates in models of vegetation change. To address these challenges, we built the continental Masting Inference and Forecasting (MASTIF) network of primary data, and we developed trend attribution to quantify climate impacts, as modulated by the condition of the organisms themselves. Application to the MASTIF network shows that indirect effects dominate, operating through stand structure and growth. I discuss emerging insights from individual-scale processes such as demographic changes, to community consequences for mast-consuming wildlife, to global climate and soil controls on forest migration and resilience.”

Clark bio:

MASTIF article:

Access the meeting through Zoom:


Image credit: Clark Lab

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