Climate change threatens the provisioning of forest ecosystem services and biodiversity (ESB). The climate sensitivity of ESB may vary with forest development from young to old-growth conditions as structure and composition shift over time and space. This study addresses knowledge gaps hindering implementation of adaptive forest management strategies to sustain ESB. We focused on a number of ESB indicators to (a) analyze associations among carbon storage, timber growth rate, and species richness along a forest development gradient; (b) test the sensitivity of these associations to climatic changes; and (c) identify hotspots of climate sensitivity across the boreal–temperate forests of eastern North America. From pre-existing databases and literature, we compiled a unique dataset of 18,507 forest plots. We used a full Bayesian framework to quantify responses of nine ESB indicators. The Bayesian models were used to assess the sensitivity of these indicators and their associations to projected increases in temperature and precipitation. We found the strongest association among the investigated ESB indicators in old forests (>170 years). These forests simultaneously support high levels of carbon storage, timber growth, and species richness. Older forests also exhibit low climate sensitivity of associations among ESB indicators as compared to younger forests. While regions with a currently low combined ESB performance benefitted from climate change, regions with a high ESB performance were particularly vulnerable to climate change. In particular, climate sensitivity was highest east and southeast of the Great Lakes, signaling potential priority areas for adaptive management. Our findings suggest that strategies aimed at enhancing the representation of older forest conditions at landscape scales will help sustain ESB in a changing world.
© 2019 The Authors
Thom D, Golivets M, Edling L, Meigs GW, Gourevitch JD, Sonter LJ, Galford GL, Keeton WS. The climate sensitivity of carbon, timber, and species richness covaries with forest age in boreal–temperate North America. Global change biology. 2019 Jul;25(7):2446-58.