Morin, Xavier; De Coligny, François; Martin-StPaul, Nicolas; Bugmann, Harald; Cailleret, Maxime; Limousin, Jean-Marc; Ourcival, Jean-Marc; Prévosto, Bernard; Simioni, Guillaume; Toigo, Maude; Vennetier, Michel; Cateau, Eugénie; Guillemot, Joannes

Climate change impacts forests in many ways. It notably alters forest functioning and especially productivity, on which depends the capacity of forests to sequester carbon and provide services to human populations. It also affects the species composition of forest ecosystems, with consequences for biodiversity but also for functioning as both are linked. Yet, there are few robust tools available to make predictions of these two facets, which precludes accurate projections and recommendations for long-term forest management.

Here we present a new model simulating forest stands across a wide range of species and environmental conditions. It presents a balance between complexity and generality, possibly providing a good candidate to accurately predict both forest growth in the short-term and potential community composition in the long-term. We tested this dual ability of the model after having calibrated it using an original parameterization procedure for the main tree species in France.

The model was shown to satisfactorily predict forest annual growth (averaged over a few years) from mountain to Mediterranean climates, regardless of species composition. It also showed a strong ability to predict potential community compositions in the long term. We further showed that accounting for the spatial configuration of crowns within forest stands, the effects of climatic constraints and the variability of shade tolerances among species are all important to better predict short-term productivity with such a model.

We believe that using this kind of model, balancing generality and realism (i.e., predicting accuracy), may open great perspectives regarding key ecological processes. In particular these tools should be highly relevant to the exploration of how tree species richness in forests affects stand productivity, and how climate change will impact these patterns.

Read the article in full here.