Imagining Future Forests: What Models Can Learn from Field Data.

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Eric J Ward1, Jean-Christophe Domec1, Marshall A. Laviner2, Thomas D. Fox2, Ge Sun1,3, Steve G. McNulty1,3, John King1 and Asko Noormets1, (1)North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, Raleigh, NC, United States, (2)Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Blacksburg, VA, United States, (3)USDA Forest Svc, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, Raleigh, NC, United States
General circulation models predict that future forests in the U.S. Southeast will experience higher temperatures and more variable precipitation in the future, resulting in a moderate decrease in water availability (precipitation minus evapotranspiration), though considerable uncertainty in and disagreement between projections remain. The Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaptation Project (PINEMAP) represents an effort to understand the future of 20 million acres of planted pine forests managed by private landowners in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states.

Decades of productivity research on loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) has led to a widespread practice of mid-rotation fertilization of loblolly plantations, supplying additional nutrients as stands approach canopy closure. It remains an open question what the effects of fertilization of pine forests in this region will be in the face of periodic or persistent droughts, in terms of forest water use and its implications to other water uses downstream.

Therefore, we will review key results from past ecophysiological research on the responses of loblolly pine to fertilization, elevated CO2 and water availability, as well as a recent PINEMAP field trial of fertilization and drought imposed through rainfall displacement over two growing seasons. Despite high rainfall in 2013 (1224 mm compared an average 1120 mm) and a lack of leaf area response, transpiration decreased in response to fertilization and through rainfall displacement. Treatment differences were greatest in the growing season of 2013, when transpiration was on average 13.6, 20.2 and 28.7% lower in the rainfall displacement, fertilization and combined treatment than the control (46 mm/month), respectively. We will conclude by reviewing the important lessons from this research for regional models of future forests in this region in terms of LAI, transpiration, growth and water use efficiency.