Most forest growth models are not suitable for the highly fragmented, linear (or linearly shaped) forests in the Great Plains agroecosystems (e.g., windbreaks, riparian forest buffers) where such forests are a minor but ecologically important component of the land mosaics. This study used SEEDSCAPE, a recently modified gap model designed for cultivated land mosaics in the Great Plains, to simulate the effects of climate change on the dynamics of such linear forests. We simulated the dynamics of windbreaks with different initial planting species richness and widths (light changes as the selected resulting factor) using current climate data and nested regional circulation models (RegCMs). Results indicated that (1) it took 70-80 simulation years for the linear forests to reach a steady state under both normal (present-day) and warming climates; (2) warming climates would reduce total aboveground tree biomass and the spatial variation in biomass but increase dominance in the linear forests, especially in the upland forests; (3) linear forests with higher planting species richness and smaller width produced higher aboveground tree biomass per unit area; and (4) same species performed very differently with different climate scenarios, initial planting diversity, and forest widths. Although the model still needs further improvements (e.g., the effects of understory species should be included), the model can serve as a useful tool in modeling the succession of linear forests in human-dominated land mosaics under changing climates and may also have significant practical implications in other systems.
Additional publication details
Simulating the dynamics of linear forests in Great Plains agroecosystems under changing climates