Ecological and Economic Consequences of Climate on Eurasion Boreal Forests

Lutz, David Andrew, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Shugart, Hank, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Epstein, Howard, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

This dissertation documents the use of the ecological gap model FAREAST throughout Russia, in concert with an economic timber and carbon model, and demonstrates its utility and compatibility with Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) for future climate-terrestrial simulations. Results from experiments performed in this dissertation showed that the leading edge of Russian forests is not the most likely location for change identification, as most changes in these areas occurred physiologically as opposed to compositionally within the stands observed. Interior forests displayed much greater levels of change, particularly with variables related to stand species composition. Forest stands with a stand age between 75 and 150 years showed slight resiliency to warming temperatures in Siberia. These results follow Holling (1986) and his conceptual adaptive cycle framework for forests. While this resiliency is stronger for warming up to a 2 degree Celsius increase of monthly mean temperatures and therefore important for short-term management decisions, greater temperature increases hamper the ability for these forests to be resilient. Forest plantations are, due to their short life-cycle, particularly vulnerable to warming temperatures. Analysis of the net present value of several forest projects indicates that warming temperatures will lower economic returns from nearly every forestry project studied with the exception of Pinus sylvestris stands in northwestern Russia. While forestry projects in Russia are good candidates for carbon sequestration projects, mainly because timber operations are marginally profitable due to the low growth rates in many areas of Russia and systematic inefficiencies of Russian Lutz Dissertation 2010 III infrastructure, warming temperatures will also affect the ability of these projects to make a profit. Rising temperatures throughout the circumboreal zone will undoubtedly affect boreal forests in Russia. Within this dissertation lie insights into the ecological response of forests as well as recommendations for management strategies that may utilize these findings. While warming temperatures will alter the ecological functioning and position of these forests, current trends indicate that it will still be several decades before a complete conversion of these forests to an alternative stable state will occur; however, proper management is imperative to mitigate the consequences of such a conversion.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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