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Competition and Climate Affects US Hardwood-Forest Tree Mortality

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Individual-tree measurements have been collected periodically on sites established in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to investigate the effects of thinning on the growth and yield of valuable hardwood species. These plots were installed between 1959 and 1985. The long-term characteristics of this data set of 47,853 trees allowed us to investigate potential climatic effects on the mortality of individual trees. Stand and tree measures of competition, monthly and annual temperatures, and precipitation were statistically assessed against mortality through proportional hazards survival analysis for 21 species groups. Competitive factors entered the models more consistently than climatic factors. However, some of the climate factors were of higher importance than some of the competitive factors. The models produced were then run using future climate predictions from conservative and extreme general circulation model scenarios to estimate possible future hazard rates of mortality. These rates varied greatly based on species group and future climate scenario because of the highly variable climate. The high variability of future climate projections make it difficult to estimate changes in future risks of tree mortality because of climate change. However, the study reiterates that managing for more resilient forests by reducing competitive stress will help mitigate the effects of climatic stress as well as many other stresses such as those caused by insects and pathogens.
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Keywords: climate change; general circulation models; hazard rate; survival analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-08-21

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
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