Establishing a Network of Forest Inventory Plots across U. Michigan Properties to Assess and Inform About Forest Performance Under Global Change

Project Overview
Project Abstract: 
Forest managers are being asked by local governments to follow practices that account for the impact of global change (i.e., climate change, pollution, landscape changes, introduced species) on the ecosystems they manage. However, the lack of scientific knowledge about short-term (i.e., decades) tree community responses to global change has made this task difficult. Most forests management practices focused on single organismal stages (e.g., adult growth, seedling establishment) ignoring the dynamics of the full population. But, this approach is unlikely to succeed reaching their objectives (e.g., restoration, conservation, maintenance of biodiversity, resilience, carbon sequestration) because critical thresholds and bottleneck dynamics could be missed. Furthermore, the most common scientific approach to infer short-term forest dynamics—correlating survival and growth of single species with associated environmental variables—may not yield reliable forecasts under future conditions, as these associations do not account for species interactions that could be critical determining the viability and performance of each species. Therefore, we need a comprehensive and integrated approach that enables predictions of full communities of coexisting forest species performances under the forecasted environmental conditions. To generate these comprehensive forecasts our best strategy relies on combining empirical data with our theoretical knowledge of a system. In the particular case of forest ecosystems a holistic approach to coexisting tree species performances will bring a better and speedier understanding of forest dynamics than just the sum of the parts, as interactions and feedbacks would be indirectly accounted for and integrated into the estimates. For that, data synthesis and data-model integration are highly suitable tools. Here we propose to develop the research infrastructure to gather the empirical data necessary to address this main objective: modeling full community dynamics of coexisting tree species to assess forest performance under the sweep of conditions associated with global change. Since 2008 the Global Change Ecology research group (PI Ibáñez) has been working on more than 10 forest stands in Michigan. We have been collecting data on natural forest dynamics (reproduction, recruitment and seedlings survival and growth), environmental conditions (temperature, soil moisture, soil nutrients, light, landscape cover), and carrying out experiments with the objective of forecasting forest species recruitment under global change. However, to carry out the synthesis work that would fully address the proposed main objective we would need to collect an additional set of data: full community surveys of tree species in the forest stands we have been working, similar to the efforts taking place at the ES George Reserve (PI Dick). In this document we propose to establish a network of forest inventory plots and from them gather the data needed to carry out the synthesis work necessary to forecast future forest performance under global change.
Investigator Info
Funding agency: 
McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program-USDA
Years research project active: