Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (0 bytes)

Title: Long-term vegetation changes in a temperate forest impacted by climate change

Author: Oakes, Lauren E.; Hennon, Paul E.; O'Hara, Kevin L.; Dirzo, Rodolfo;

Date: 2014

Source: Ecosphere

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Pervasive forest mortality is expected to increase in future decades as a result of increasing temperatures. Climate-induced forest dieback can have consequences on ecosystem services, potentially mediated by changes in forest structure and understory community composition that emerge in response to tree death. Although many dieback events around the world have been documented in recent years, yellowcedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) decline provides an opportunity to study vegetation changes occurring over the past century. Current research identifies climate-related reductions in snow cover as a key driver of this species dieback. To examine the process of forest development post-dieback, we conducted vegetation surveys at 50 plots along the outer coast of southeast Alaska across a chronosequence of mortality. Our main study objectives were to examine changes in seedling and sapling abundance, and community structure of conifer species in the overstory; effects of yellow-cedar mortality on plant diversity and community composition of functional groups in the understory; and volume of key forage species for Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) managed throughout the region. The probability of yellow-cedar sapling occurrence was reduced across the chronosequence. Yellow-cedar seedling and sapling abundance also decreased. We observed a turnover from yellow-cedar to western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) dominated forests. Functional plant diversity increased and the community composition of the understory changed across the chronosequence. Bryophytes became less abundant and grasses more abundant in the early stages of stand development, and shrubs increased in relative abundance in latter stages. Our results demonstrate that yellow-cedar is significantly less likely to regenerate in forests affected by widespread mortality, and a species dieback can dynamically rearrange the plant community over time. These findings emphasize the importance of considering long-term temporal dynamics when assessing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and adapting forest management to a changing climate.

Keywords: Alaska, biodiversity, Callitropsis nootkatensis, climate change, community composition, disturbance, forest dieback, stand development.

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Oakes, Lauren E.; Hennon, Paul E.; O'Hara, Kevin L.; Dirzo, Rodolfo 2014. Long-term vegetation changes in a temperate forest impacted by climate change. Ecosphere. 5(10): art 135.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.