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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Carl A. Roland; Joshua H. Schmidt; E. Fleur Nicklen
Publication Date: February 2013

Recent studies suggest that climate warming in interior Alaska may result in major shifts from spruce-dominated forests to broadleaf-dominated forests or even grasslands. To quantify patterns in tree distribution and abundance and to investigate the potential for changes in forest dynamics through time, we initiated a spatially extensive vegetation monitoring program covering 1.28 million ha in Denali National Park and Preserve (DNPP). Using a probabilistic sampling design, we collected field measurements throughout the study area to develop spatially explicit Bayesian hierarchical models of tree occupancy and abundance. These models demonstrated a strong partitioning of the landscape among the six tree species in DNPP, and allowed us to account for and examine residual spatial autocorrelation in our data. Tree distributions were governed by two primary ecological gradients: (1) the gradient from low elevation, poorly drained, permafrost-influenced sites with shallow active layers and low soil pH (dominated by Picea mariana) to deeply thawed and more productive sites at mid-elevation with higher soil pH on mineral substrate (dominated by Picea glauca); and (2) the gradient from older, less recently disturbed sites dominated by conifers to those recently affected by disturbance in the form of fire and flooding with increased occupancy and abundance of broadleaf species. We found that the establishment of broadleaf species was largely dependent on disturbance, and mixed forests and pure stands of broadleaf trees were relatively rare and occurred in localized areas. Contrary to recent work in nearby areas of interior Alaska, our results suggest that P. glauca distribution may actually increase in DNPP under warming conditions rather than decline as previously predicted, as P. glauca expands into areas formerly underlain by permafrost. We found no evidence of a shift to broadleaf forests in DNPP, particularly in the poorly drained basin landscape positions that may be resistant to such changes. Overall, our results indicate that probabilistic sampling conducted at a landscape scale can improve inference relative to the habitat associations driving the distribution and abundance of trees in the boreal forest and the potential effects of climate change on them. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America. Abstract reproduced by permission.

Online Links
Citation: Roland, C. A., J. H. Schmidt, and E. F. Nicklen. 2013. Landscape-scale patterns in tree occupancy and abundance in subarctic Alaska. Ecological Monographs, v. 83, no. 1, p. 19-48.

Cataloging Information

  • balsam poplar
  • Betula neoalaskana
  • black spruce
  • boreal forest
  • boreal forests
  • C - carbon
  • coniferous forests
  • Denali National Park and Preserve
  • elevation
  • fire management
  • forest management
  • landscape-scale pattern
  • Larix laricina
  • Larix laricina
  • N - nitrogen
  • national parks
  • pH
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea glauca
  • Picea mariana
  • Picea mariana
  • population density
  • Populus balsamifera
  • Populus balsamifera
  • Populus tremuloides
  • Populus tremuloides
  • quaking aspen
  • radiation
  • seedlings
  • sloping terrain
  • soil moisture
  • soil organic matter
  • soil temperature
  • species-environment
  • tamarack
  • vegetation monitoring
  • vegetation surveys
  • white spruce
Tall Timbers Record Number: 29034Location Status: In-fileCall Number: Journals - EAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 52008

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.