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Forest responses to last-millennium hydroclimate variability are governed by spatial variations in ecosystem sensitivity
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  • Christine Rollinson,
  • Andria Dawson,
  • Ann Raiho,
  • John Williams,
  • Michael Dietze,
  • Thomas Hickler,
  • Stephen Jackson,
  • Jason McLachlan,
  • David Moore,
  • Ben Poulter,
  • Tristan Quaife,
  • Jörg Steinkamp,
  • Mathias Trachsel
Christine Rollinson
Morton Arboretum
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Andria Dawson
Mount Royal University
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Ann Raiho
University of Notre Dame
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John Williams
University of Wisconsin
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Michael Dietze
Boston University
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Thomas Hickler
Senckenberg Research Institutes and Natural History Museum
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Stephen Jackson
DOI Southwest Climate Science Center
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Jason McLachlan
University of Notre Dame
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David Moore
University of Arizona
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Ben Poulter
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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Tristan Quaife
University of Reading
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Jörg Steinkamp
Senckenberg Society for Nature Research
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Mathias Trachsel
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Abstract

Forecasts of forest responses to climate variability are governed by climate exposure and ecosystem sensitivity, but ecosystem model projections and process representations are under-constrained by data at multidecadal and longer timescales. Here, we assess ecosystem sensitivity to centennial-scale hydroclimate variability, by comparing dendroclimatic and pollen-inferred reconstructions of drought, forest composition and biomass for the last millennium with five ecosystem model simulations. In both observations and models, spatial patterns in ecosystem responses to hydroclimate variability are strongly governed by ecosystem sensitivity rather than climate exposure. Ecosystem sensitivity was highest in simpler models and higher than observations, suggesting that interactions among biodiversity, demography, and ecophysiology processes dampen the sensitivity of forest composition and biomass to climate variability and change. By integrating ecosystem models with observations from timescales extending beyond the instrumental record, we can better understand and forecast the mechanisms regulating forest sensitivity to climate variability in a complex and changing world.

Peer review status:Published

24 Sep 2020Submitted to Ecology Letters
25 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed
25 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
25 Sep 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
29 Oct 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
04 Nov 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
18 Nov 20201st Revision Received
18 Nov 2020Submission Checks Completed
18 Nov 2020Assigned to Editor
23 Nov 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
24 Nov 2020Editorial Decision: Accept
Mar 2021Published in Ecology Letters volume 24 issue 3 on pages 498-508. 10.1111/ele.13667