Sensitivity of cool-temperate forests and their fossil pollen record to rapid temperature change

Margaret B. Davis, Daniel B. Botkin

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Simulations of cool-temperate forest growth in response to climatic change using the JABOWA computer model show that a decrease of 600 growing degree-days (equivalent to a 2°C decrease in mean annual temperature) causes red spruce (Picea rubens) to replace sugar maple (Acer saccharum) as the dominant tree. These changes are delayed 100–200 yr after the climatic cooling, producing gradual forest changes in response to abrupt temperature changes, and reducing the amplitude of response to brief climatic events. Soils and disturbances affect the speed and magnitude of forest response. The delayed responses are caused by the difference in sensitivity of adult trees and younger stages. The length of the delay depends on the life history characteristics of the dominant species. Delayed responses imply that fossil pollen deposits, even if they faithfully record the abundances of trees in forests, may not be able to resolve climatic changes within 100–200 yr, or to record very brief climatic events. This explains why pollen deposits do not as yet show responses to climatic changes during the past 100 yr. Only the Little Ice Age, which lasted several centuries, caused sufficient forest change to be recorded in fossil pollen, and only at certain sites.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)327-340
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

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