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Modelling the spread of Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies in southern Scandinavia during the late Holocene

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Aim  To test the hypothesis that dispersal characteristics alone can explain the past migration patterns of Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies observed in southern Scandinavia.

Location  Scandinavia, Europe.

Methods  The spreading dynamics of both species were analysed using a quantitative data–model comparison approach. Pollen data recording the arrival of the two species at 24 small forest‐hollow sites distributed across the study area were compared with simulated arrival times. The simulations were based on diffusive spread combined with long‐distance dispersal events. By systematically applying different parameter combinations yielding the desired colonization speeds we could identify values for the long‐distance dispersal component that minimized deviations from the observed arrival times.

Results  According to the minimization process, the optimal spreading rates were 100 m year−1 for F. sylvatica and 250 m year−1 for P. abies. Simulated dispersal alone could adequately explain the wave‐like spread of P. abies but failed to explain the scattered establishment pattern observed for F. sylvatica in Scandinavia. At the fine scale of stand establishment, local microclimatic conditions or site disturbance might be more important. The estimated spreading rates are high because the species colonized Scandinavia from different geographic directions and the rates slowed when their ranges overlapped. We present new estimates for the distance and frequency of long‐distance dispersal events for our modelled species.

Main conclusions  Our analyses suggest that the late Holocene spread of P. abies in Scandinavia was fairly rapid and was limited only by biological processes of dispersal, while that of F. sylvatica was limited by other factors probably controlled by site properties. Picea abies has maintained a rapid and constant rate of spread throughout at least the last 4000 years, despite significant changes in climate. There is uncertainty about the precise relationship between P. abies and climate in Scandinavia, so future distributions are not easy to forecast. For F. sylvatica in Scandinavia, site quality appears to have been a limiting factor, so future land use is likely to dictate its future distribution dynamics in combination with climatic factors.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Philipps-University of Marburg, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse 8, Marburg 35032, Germany 2: School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Roxby Building, Liverpool L69 7ZT, UK

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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