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Forest regeneration within Earth system models: current process representations and ways forward

Published Web Location Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

Earth system models must predict forest responses to global change in order to simulate future global climate, hydrology, and ecosystem dynamics. These models are increasingly adopting vegetation demographic approaches that explicitly represent tree growth, mortality, and recruitment, enabling advances in the projection of forest vulnerability and resilience, as well as evaluation with field data. To date, simulation of regeneration processes has received far less attention than simulation of processes that affect growth and mortality, in spite of their critical role maintaining forest structure, facilitating turnover in forest composition over space and time, enabling recovery from disturbance, and regulating climate-driven range shifts. Our critical review of regeneration process representations within current Earth system vegetation demographic models reveals the need to improve parameter values and algorithms for reproductive allocation, dispersal, seed survival and germination, environmental filtering in the seedling layer, and tree regeneration strategies adapted to wind, fire, and anthropogenic disturbance regimes. These improvements require synthesis of existing data, specific field data-collection protocols, and novel model algorithms compatible with global-scale simulations. Vegetation demographic models offer the opportunity to more fully integrate ecological understanding into Earth system prediction; regeneration processes need to be a critical part of the effort.

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