Forest Dynamics scientific goals

The goal of Forest Dynamics is to develop new techniques for the integration of sedimentary paleoecological and dendroecological data to better understand reconstructions of forest disturbances.

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Figure 1: Conceptual model and framework of data integration of disturbance-affected forest systems, resulting natural archives and the benefits of integrative research.

We have three specific and measurable objectives:

1. Compile a spatial geodatabase of reconstructed disturbances from the sedimentary and dendroecology disciplines. Measurable outcome: database.

2. Integrate sedimentary paleoecological and dendroecological disturbance histories through (a) extrapolating the data onto a common timescale (e.g. 20 year intervals) using Bayesian age-depth modelling to underpin the integration of sedimentary and tree-ring records, and (b) extending the current knowledge of historical forest disturbance dynamics to millennial timescales, beyond the temporal limits of dendroecology by using the well-calibrated sedimentary records achieved in 2a. Measurable outcome: quantitative forest disturbance histories that bridge tree-ring and sedimentary temporal and spatial scales.

3. To assess shifting drivers of vegetation dynamics (e.g. climate change and anthropogenic history) in relation to the emergent spatial and temporal patters in forest disturbance dynamics related to fire, wind and pathogen disturbance. Measurable outcome: multi-proxy metrics for data-rich hotspots across a range of forested ecosystems correlated to forest disturbance regimes and their driving factors.

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Figure 2: Temporal and spatial limits of dendroecology and sedimentary records highlighting the overlap important for data integration.

Forest Dynamics proposes to bring the global research community together to explicitly link temporal ecology; the scale differences between sedimentary palaeoecology and dendroecology. Combined datasets will improve disturbance interpretations, better identify data limitations, and ongoing research will increase the spatial coverage of sedimentary paleo- and dendroecological reconstructions of natural and anthropogenic forest dynamics.

The approach to partition human versus climate driven changes will be based on aggregation of large (sub-continent scale) datasets and analyses of temporal synchronicity in regime shifts and timing of specific events in the chronologies. In addition to that, we will capitalize on independently developed proxies (e.g. NPPs, geochemical ratios, anthropogenic pollen indicators and fire regime shifts) of environmental variability to support our analyses and result interpretation.

The ultimate outcome of this work will be the development of rich datasets to develop and validate disturbance models and, finally, to provide solid data support for conservation and management actions.

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Spruce bark beetle disturbance in Markagunt Plateau, southern Utah, USA. Photo: R. Justin DeRose.