Islands of Pine: Future Climate Scenarios in the NJ Pinelands using the LANDIS-II Forest Landscape Disturbance and Succession Model

Title: Islands of Pine: Future Climate Scenarios in the NJ Pinelands using the LANDIS-II Forest Landscape Disturbance and Succession Model

Authors: Inga P. La Puma, Richard G. Lathrop Jr., Robert M. Scheller and Steve Van Tuyl

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Abstract:  Assessing forest resilience to disturbances including climate change is an important aspect of adaptive management. Climate change impacts on fire and forest composition in the Pinelands of New Jersey have not been assessed to date and the prospect of major shifts in forest composition present challenges to the mission of the Pinelands National Reserve to preserve the ecological integrity of the Pinelands. The balance of pine versus oak cover may have long term effects on accumulated biomass and other ecosystem services. Ecological interactions between reduced fire due to nearby altered land, available forested area for burning, and climate change effects on fire will determine fire size and frequency. Factors such as increases in aboveground net primary productivity and changes in species establishment probabilities in a warming climate are also key determinants of pine versus oak forest composition. We used climate change forecasts in combination with a landscape disturbance and succession model (LANDIS-II) to investigate the interactions between climate and altered land forecasts, fire regimes, and forest composition. Our modeling results suggest that with increasing temperature and CO2 the average fire size in the Pinelands of New Jersey will mimic base altered land scenarios and forest composition will change from pine to oak cover. Results can be used for incorporating climate change into adaptive management plans for Pinelands preservation efforts and as an example of a protected ecosystem highly dependent on human management decisions in an urbanized context.