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Modeling Forest Succession among Ecological Land Units in Northern Minnesota

George Host, University of Minnesota - Duluth
John Pastor, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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Abstract

Field and modeling studies were used to quantify potential successional pathways among fine-scale ecological classification units within two geomorphic regions of north-central Minnesota. Soil and overstory data were collected on plots stratified across low-relief ground moraines and undulating sand dunes. Each geomorphic feature was sampled across gradients of topography or soil texture. Overstory conditions were sampled using five variable-radius point samples per plot; soil samples were analyzed for carbon and nitrogen content. Climatic, forest composition, and soil data were used to parameterize the sample plots for use with LINKAGES, a forest growth model that simulates changes in composition and soil characteristics over time. Forest composition and soil properties varied within and among geomorphic features. LINKAGES simulations were using "bare ground" and the current overstory as starting conditions. Northern hardwoods or pines dominated the late-successional communities of morainal and dune landforms, respectively. The morainal landforms were dominated by yellow birch and sugar maple; yellow birch reached its maximum abundance in intermediate landscape positions. On the dune sites, pine was most abundant in drier landscape positions, with white spruce increasing in abundance with increasing soil moisture and N content. The differences in measured soil properties and predicted late-successional composition indicate that ecological land units incorporate some of the key variables that govern forest composition and structure. They further show the value of ecological classification and modeling for developing forest management strategies that incorporate the spatial and temporal dynamics of forest ecosystems.

Key words

climatology, dunes, ecological classification systems (ECS), forest growth model, forest management, forest, succession, geomorphology, LINKAGES, moraines, northern Minnesota, overstory composition, overstory composition, soil properties.
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087