Novel Forest Research Initiative
I am developing a quantitative framework to understand how novel forests will arise from the ashes of current systems
Forests are likely to experience increased stress, as environmental change accelerates and disturbance regimes change in the 21st century. Novel climate and disturbance could initiate non-linear feedback loops that accelerate or dampen ecological change in forests and fundamentally reshape how forests are structured and function. Trees are already beginning to shift their geographic distributions in response to changing climate and disturbance and each species will respond individually based on functional traits and biotic interactions. Thus, tree-species assemblages will appear that may never have previously co-occurred. Forest ecologists increasingly study where and why today’s forests are vulnerable to change but there is substantially less emphasis on how novel forests of tomorrow will arise, as the resilience of current systems erodes. This project addresses three questions focusing on boreal forest of interior Alaska:
Question 1 (Reorganization and feedbacks): How will novel tree species assemblages form during the 21st century, and how do feedbacks develop that accelerate or dampen ecological change?
Question 2 (Sustainable forest management): Under what conditions are management objectives successfully met in reorganizing forests and what is the relative importance of ecological context, manager characteristics, and institutional configuration?
Question 3 (Scaling consequences): How do changes in regional climate regulation emerge from local social-ecological interactions in reorganizing forest systems, and what are the key mechanisms that determine broadscale outcomes?