Data from: From canopy to seed: loss of snow drives directional changes in forest composition
Bisbing, Sarah M. et al. (2019), Data from: From canopy to seed: loss of snow drives directional changes in forest composition, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.23420f6
Climate change is altering the conditions for tree recruitment, growth, and survival, and impacting forest community composition. Across southeast Alaska, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, Callitropsis nootkatensis (Alaska yellow-cedar) is experiencing extensive climate change-induced canopy mortality due to fine root death during soil freezing events following warmer winters and the loss of insulating snowpack. Here, we examine the effects of ongoing, climate-driven canopy mortality on regeneration and identify potential shifts in stand trajectories due to loss of a single canopy species. We sampled canopy and regenerating communities across the extent of C. nootkatensis decline in southeast Alaska to identify the drivers of C. nootkatensis canopy mortality and regeneration as well as post-decline regenerating community composition. Across the plot network, C. nootkatensis exhibited significantly higher mortality than co-occurring conifers across all size classes and locations. Regenerating community composition was highly variable but closely related to the severity of C. nootkatensis mortality. Callitropsis nootkatensis canopy mortality on the plot network was correlated with winter temperatures and precipitation as well as soil drainage, with C. nootkatensis regeneration abundances and regenerating community composition best explained by available seed source. In areas of high C. nootkatensis mortality, C. nootkatensis regeneration was low and was replaced by Tsuga. Our study suggests that climate-induced forest mortality is driving alternate successional pathways in forests where C. nootkatensis was once a major component. These pathways are likely to lead to long-term shifts in forest community composition and stand dynamics. Our analysis fills a critical knowledge gap on forest ecosystem response and rearrangement following the climate-driven decline of a single species, providing new insight into stand dynamics in a changing climate. As tree species across the globe are increasingly stressed by climate change-induced alteration of suitable habitat, identifying the autecological factors contributing to successful regeneration, or lack thereof, will provide key insight into forest resilience and persistence on the landscape.