Work package Number 4
Starting date Month:4
Leading partner CTFC
Objectives The environmental, social and economic importance of forests is undisputable. In that respect, we have accumulated relevant knowledge on how forest work and respond to environmental changes at many spatial scales. However, we currently lack adequate tools to integrate such available knowledge and derive relevant and accurate predictions of future changes in forest structure and function in the event of further environmental changes. New approaches and modelling tools are needed that can deal with the large number of processes interacting at multiple spatial and temporal scales.  Sophisticated modelling tools have emerged to address the complex dynamics inherent in these interactions, mostly employing some combination of stochastic and deterministic functions to simulate these relationships. Furthermore, many natural phenomena (fire, wood production, etc.) could be better described using the tools and methods of complexity science. Complexity theory is based on a holistic view of systems where macroscopic measures describing the most probable behaviour of the system or its recurrent spatiotemporal patterns are understood as emergent properties resulting from the local interactions among the system’s components. Complexity theory offers a unifying framework to understand and analyze global patterns emerging in the function and management of forest ecosystems. The present projects aims to: (1) develop greater practical expertise and knowledge of complex dynamics in our forest ecosystems; (2) develop new methodologies to plan and predict the impacts of alternative forest management strategies; (3) train highly qualified personnel to use and improve tools employed in complexity science; and (4) assure the transfer of knowledge from university researchers to decision makers responsible for forested lands, whether in government, industry or environmental NGOs.
Description of work Task 4.1. Modelling of forest spatial dynamics. Recent developments in spatial modeling have moved towards the develppment of mechanistics models aimed at projecting the dynamics of species distribution by means of integrating relevant ecological mechanisms into different kind of models such as Integral Projection Models, or hybrid species distribution models. We will apply these methods to different data sets from Europe and Canada to study predicted future forest dynamics in response to climate change. Results from such models, which are conceptually simple although mathematically complex, could be compared with other modelling tools available at CEF.

Task 4.2. Integrated modelling of landscape changes in response to simultaneous global change drivers and disturbances. Identification of relevant ecological processes for the systems of interest at the landscape scale (WP 1, 2 & 3). We will focus on climate change, land use changes and forest management and fire regimes as main environmental drivers. We will build from previous studies and projects in both Mediterranean & mountain and temperate & boreal systems and review the literature complementing with new data when necessary in order to acquire the information to parameterise and develop conceptual and landscape spatially explicitly landscape models of future change.

Task 4.3. Improving niche models using plant functional traits. Functional traits are replacing species as the key elements to consider in the functioning of natural ecosystems. As such, there are lots of interest in developing more flexible models that could allow the use of well-known functional traits of species to develop niche models that could then be implemented in various regions without having to go through the tedious process of parameter estimation the model for new species. We will use data from the National Forest Inventory of Spain and Québec and the the Ecological and Forest Inventory of Catalonia to develop niche models based on functional traits for some of the main forest tree species of each region

Task 4.4. Understanding the interaction between the intensity of human-use, disturbance susceptibility and resilience. Human-activities have modified and continue modifying the composition and structure of forest ecosystems and through this its capacity to resist or respond to natural disturbances. North-American and Southern-Europe forests present a rather different history of human exploitation, and thus constitute an appropriate study model to analyze the interaction between both components: human-use intensity and disturbance responses. In the present context of global change, understanding this relationship is critical to be able to anticipate future impacts on forests that may affect the goods and services they provide. In that sense, although important advances have been made on the comprehension of the response of forests to big disturbances (i.e. catastrophic wildfires), the role of small disturbances remains still unclear (in particular in South-European forest) although their importance in the dynamics of forest ecosystems located in mountain areas. Concerning this point, specific actions to be jointly developed include: (i) selecting forest with different degree of management activity but with comparable ecological characteristics, (ii) analyzing the role of small disturbances on the dynamics of these forests (characterization of the composition and structure of the regeneration) and evaluating the main factors (disturbance attributes, stand-structure,…) that modulate this response.

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