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The effects of a half century of warming and fire exclusion on montane forests of the Klamath Mountains, California, USA

Citation

DeSiervo, Melissa; Jules, Erik (2022), The effects of a half century of warming and fire exclusion on montane forests of the Klamath Mountains, California, USA, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9s4mw6mj7

Abstract

These files are the raw data used in the manuscript "Effects of a half century of warming and fire exclusion on montane forests of the Klamath Mountains, California, USA"

Manuscript authors: Erik S. Jules, Melissa H. DeSiervo, Matthew J. Reilly, Drew S. Bost, and Ramona J. Butz

Climate warming and altered disturbance regimes are changing forest composition and structure worldwide. Given that species often exhibit individualistic responses to change, making predictions about the cumulative effects of multiple stressors across environmental gradients is challenging, especially in diverse communities. For example, warming temperatures are predicted to drive species upslope, while fire exclusion promotes expansion of species at lower elevations where fire was historically frequent.

We resampled 148 vegetation plots to assess 46-years (1969 to 2015) of species and community-level response to warming and fire exclusion in a topographically complex landscape in the Klamath Mountains, California (USA), a diverse region that served as a climate refugia throughout the Holocene. We compared cover and assessed change in the elevational distributions of 12 conifer species at different life stages (i.e., seedlings, saplings, canopy).

We observed consistent but non-significant shifts upward in elevation for eight species, and a significant shift upward for one species, all of which were far less than expectations based on recent warming. Six species declined in total cover and another five declined in at least one life stage, while the drought- and fire-intolerant Abies concolor increased by 30.7%. The largest declines were at lower elevations in drought-tolerant, early seral species (Pinus lambertiana and Pinus ponderosa) and at higher elevations for the shade-tolerant Abies magnifica var. shastensis and the regionally rare Abies lasiocarpa. Regionally rare (Picea engelmannii) and endemic (Picea breweriana) species had reductions in early life stages, portending future declines. Multivariate analyses revealed a high degree of inertia with a minor but significant shift in composition and a slight decrease in species turnover along the elevation gradient driven by expansion of A. concolor. Our results indicate that most species are declining, especially at lower- and mid-elevations where fire exclusion increased cover of shade-tolerant species and reduced recruitment for fire-adapted species. Collectively, declines in most species, insufficient upward movement to track warming, reductions in drought- and fire-tolerant early seral species, and an increase in a single, shade-tolerant species will leave these communities maladapted to projected climate scenarios and questions the potential for future climate refugia in this region.

Methods

The data file (“Klamath Site data.csv”) includes site information from 148 plots surveyed in the Russian Wilderness of northern California (USA).

Data column information:
1. Plot number column includes the plot number and year (1969 or 2015).
2. The column labelled Year is either 1969 or 2015, the two years of the survey.
3. Elev(dem) is the elevation of each plot in meters.
4. “heatload” is the heatload index, a proxy for solar radiation based on aspect, slope, and topographic position in the context of surrounding landscape (defined in McCune 2007).

Literature Cited:
McCune, B. 2007. Improved estimates of incident radiation and heat load using non- parametric regression against topographic variables. Journal of Vegetation Science 18:751–754.

The data file (“Klamath tree data.csv”) includes the % cover from of trees from 148 plots surveyed in the Russian Wilderness of northern California (USA). All data were collected in the field by 2-4 observers in 1969 and 2014/5.

1. Plot number column includes the plot number and year (1969 or 2015).

2. Columns = tree species cover in three life stages. CAN = Canopy. SAP = sapling. SEED = Seedling. Tree species are in four letter codes. EX: ABMA = Abies magnifica. 

We converted cover class values for these 12 species to median values for both years as the following: cover class (1) 1 %; (2) 3%; (3) 7%; (4) 17.5%; (5) 37.5%; (6) 62.5%; and (7) 87.5%.

Funding

U.S. Forest Service, Award: 11-CS-11051000-023

U.S. Forest Service, Award: 16-CS-11051000