College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Global climate change increases uncertainty in sustained functioning of forest ecosystems. Forest canopies are a key link between terrestrial ecosystems, the atmosphere, and climate. Here, we introduce research presented at the 66th meeting of the Ecological Society of Japan in the symposium “Structure and function of forest canopies under climate change.” Old-growth forest carbon stores are the largest and may be the most vulnerable to climate change as the balance between sequestration and emission could easily be tipped. Detailed structural analysis of individual large, old trees shows they are allocating wood to the trunk and crown in patterns that cannot be deduced from ground, thus can be used to more accurately quantify total forest carbon and sequestration. Slowly migrating species sensitive to novel climatic conditions will have to acclimate at the individual level. Accounting for physiological responses of trees to climate change will improve predictions of future species distributions and subsequent functioning of forest ecosystems. Field experiments manipulating temperature and precipitation show how trees compensate physiologically to mitigate for higher temperatures and drought. However, it is difficult to measure acclimation responses over long timeframes. Intraindividual trait variation is proposed as an indicator of acclimation potential of trees to future conditions and suggests that acclimation potential may vary among regional populations within a species. Integrating whole-tree structural data with physiological data offers a promising avenue for understanding how trees will respond to climatic shifts.
Predicting effects of climate change on productivity and persistence of forest trees.
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