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Forests 2015, 6(4), 1208-1226; doi:10.3390/f6041208

Predicting Effects of Climate Change on Habitat Suitability of Red Spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of the USA: Understanding Complex Systems Mechanisms through Modeling

1
Department of Geography, 26 Kyungheedae-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea
2
Odum School of Ecology, 140 E. Green Street, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2202, USA
3
Center for Geospatial Research (CGR), Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2305, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Phillip G. Comeau
Received: 14 January 2015 / Revised: 23 March 2015 / Accepted: 7 April 2015 / Published: 15 April 2015
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Abstract

Alpine, subalpine and boreal tree species, of low genetic diversity and adapted to low optimal temperatures, are vulnerable to the warming effects of global climate change. The accurate prediction of these species’ distributions in response to climate change is critical for effective planning and management. The goal of this research is to predict climate change effects on the distribution of red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), eastern USA. Climate change is, however, conflated with other environmental factors, making its assessment a complex systems problem in which indirect effects are significant in causality. Predictions were made by linking a tree growth simulation model, red spruce growth model (ARIM.SIM), to a GIS spatial model, red spruce habitat model (ARIM.HAB). ARIM.SIM quantifies direct and indirect interactions between red spruce and its growth factors, revealing the latter to be dominant. ARIM.HAB spatially distributes the ARIM.SIM simulations under the assumption that greater growth reflects higher probabilities of presence. ARIM.HAB predicts the future habitat suitability of red spruce based on growth predictions of ARIM.SIM under climate change and three air pollution scenarios: 10% increase, no change and 10% decrease. Results show that suitable habitats shrink most when air pollution increases. Higher temperatures cause losses of most low-elevation habitats. Increased precipitation and air pollution produce acid rain, which causes loss of both low- and high-elevation habitats. The general prediction is that climate change will cause contraction of red spruce habitats at both lower and higher elevations in GSMNP, and the effects will be exacerbated by increased air pollution. These predictions provide valuable information for understanding potential impacts of global climate change on the spatiotemporal distribution of red spruce habitats in GSMNP. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; physiological mechanisms; red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.); habitat model (ARIM.HAB); simulation model (ARIM.SIM) climate change; physiological mechanisms; red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.); habitat model (ARIM.HAB); simulation model (ARIM.SIM)
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Koo, K.A.; Patten, B.C.; Madden, M. Predicting Effects of Climate Change on Habitat Suitability of Red Spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of the USA: Understanding Complex Systems Mechanisms through Modeling. Forests 2015, 6, 1208-1226.

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