Current issue: 54(2)
Models attempting to predict treeline shifts in changing climates must include the relevant ecological processes in sufficient detail. A previous correlative model study has pointed to nutrients, competition, and temperature as the most important factors shaping the treelines of Pinus sylvestris L., Picea abies (L.) H. Karst. and Betula pubescens Ehrh. in Finnish Lapland. Here, we applied a widely used process-based dynamic vegetation model (LPJ-GUESS) to (i) test its capability to simulate observed spatial and temporal patterns of the main tree species in Finnish Lapland, and (ii) to explore the model representation of important processes in order to guide further model development. A European parameterization of LPJ-GUESS overestimated especially P. abies biomass and the species’ northern range limit. We identified implemented processes to adjust (competition, disturbance) and crucial processes in boreal forests to include (nutrient limitation, forest management) which account for the model’s failure to (edaphically) restrict P. abies in Finnish Lapland and the resulting species imbalance. Key competitive mechanisms are shade and drought tolerance, nutrient limitation, fire resistance, and susceptibility to disturbances (storm, herbivory) which we discussed with respect to boreal ecology and promising model developments to provide a starting point for future model development.
Tree stands in the boreal treeline ecotone are, in addition to climate change, impacted by disturbances such as fire, water-related disturbances and logging. We aim to understand how these disturbances affect growth, age structure, and spatial patterns of larch stands in the north-eastern Siberian treeline ecotone (lower Kolyma River region), an insufficiently researched region. Stand structure of Larix cajanderi Mayr was studied at seven sites impacted by disturbances. Maximum tree age ranged from 44 to 300 years. Young to medium-aged stands had, independent of disturbance type, the highest stand densities with over 4000 larch trees per ha. These sites also had the highest growth rates for tree height and stem diameter. Overall lowest stand densities were found in a polygonal field at the northern end of the study area, with larches growing in distinct “tree islands”. At all sites, saplings are significantly clustered. Differences in fire severity led to contrasting stand structures with respect to tree, recruit, and overall stand densities. While a low severity fire resulted in low-density stands with high proportions of small and young larches, high severity fires resulted in high-density stands with high proportions of big trees. At water-disturbed sites, stand structure varied between waterlogged and drained sites and latitude. These mixed effects of climate and disturbance make it difficult to predict future stand characteristics and the treeline position.