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Host–parasite distributions under changing climate: Tsuga heterophylla and Arceuthobium tsugense in Alaska

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Dwarf mistletoes (Arceuthobium species) influence many processes within forested ecosystems, but few studies have examined their distribution in relation to climate. An analysis of 1549 forested plots within a 14.5 million ha region of southeast Alaska provided strong indications that climate currently limits hemlock dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium tsugense (Rosendahl) G.N. Jones) to a subset of the range of its primary tree host, western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.), with infection varying from a high of 20% of trees at sea level to only 5% by 200 m elevation. Three types of modeling approaches (logistic, most similar neighbors, and random forests) were tested for the ability to simultaneously predict abundance and distribution of host and pathogen as a function of climate variables. Current distribution was explained well by logistic models using growing degree-days, indirect and direct solar radiation, rainfall, snowfall, slope, and minimum temperatures, although accuracy for predicting A. tsugense presence at a particular location was only 38%. For future climate scenarios (A1B, A2, and B1), projected increases for A. tsugense habitat over a century ranged from a low of 374% to a high of 757%, with differences between modeling approaches contributing more to uncertainty than differences between climate scenarios.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 3301 C Street Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99503, USA. 2: Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management, 280 Peavy Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA. 3: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 11305 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK, 99801, USA.

Publication date: April 12, 2012

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