Soil saturation effects on forest dynamics: scaling across a southern boreal/northern hardwood landscape

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Patch modeling can be used to scale-up processes to portray landscape-level dynamics. Via direct extrapolation, a heterogeneous landscape is divided into its constituent patches; dynamics are simulated on each representative patch and are weighted and aggregated to formulate the higher level response. Further extrapolation may be attained by coarsening the resolution of or lumping environmental data (e.g., climatic, edaphic, hydrologic, topographic) used to delimit a patch.

Forest patterns at the southern boreal/northern hardwood transition zone are often defined by soil heterogeneity, determined primarily by the extent and duration of soil saturation. To determine how landscape-level dynamics predicted from direct extrapolation compare when coarsening soil parameters, we simulated forest dynamics for soil series representing a range of drainage classes from east- central Maine. Responses were aggregated according to the distribution of soil associations comprising a 600 ha area based on local- (1:12,000), county- (1:120,000) and state- (1:250,000) scale soil maps. At the patch level, simulated aboveground biomass accumulated more slowly in poorer draining soils. Different soil series yielded different communities comprised of species with various tolerances for soil saturation. When aggregated, removal of waterlogging caused a 20–60% increase in biomass accumulation during the first 50 years of simulation. However, this early successional increase and the maximum level of biomass accumulation over a 200 year period varied by as much as 40% depending on the geospatial data. This marked discrepancy suggests caution when extrapolating with forest patch models by coarsening parameters and demonstrates how rules used to rescale environmental data need to be evaluated for consistency.

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