The gap model ZELIG was used to examine the effects of increased temperature (2A?C) and altered precipitation on high-elevation ecosystems of the Olympic Mountains, Washington, U.S.A. Changes in tree species distribution and abundance, as well as stand biomass, were examined on north and south aspects in the dry northeast (NE) and wet southwest (SW) regions of the Olympics for (i) warmer, (ii) warmer and 20% wetter, and (iii) warmer and 20% drier climatic-change scenarios. Dominant tree species shift upwards 300-600 m in elevation in the SW, with subalpine meadows and Tsuga mertensiana (Bong.) Carr. forests being replaced by Abies amabilis (Dougl.) Forbes forests at higher elevations and A. amabilis forests being replaced by Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg. forests at lower elevations. In the NE, drought-tolerant species become dominant approximately 200 m lower than present, with A. lasiocarpa dominating the north aspect and Pinus contorta Dougl. ex Loud. the south aspect. Biomass increases in the SW and generally decreases in the NE, depending on aspect and precipitation regime. This study suggests that species and site-specific responses at mesoscale (e.g., wet vs. dry climatic regime) and microscale (e.g., north vs. south aspect) resolutions must be characterized to quantify the variation in potential effects of climatic change on forest vegetation in mountainous regions.
Additional publication details
Response of high-elevation forests in the Olympic Mountains to climatic change