2011 Research Highlights
Detecting Recent Broad-scale Changes in Forest Biodiversity
Rapid monitoring of climate change effects improves forest management
Climate change and other threats are likely to alter the composition of forests as species die out in some areas and move into others, which could alter the ecological function of forest communities. To support forest management related to these climate change impacts, an EFETAC cooperating scientist from North Carolina State University is working with Forest Service scientists to measure forest biodiversity changes in the eastern United States. A new approach known as phylogenetic community analysis makes measurement of the functional diversity of forest communities possible by calculating the cumulative evolutionary age of all the species in a community based on their position on a phylogenetic “tree of life” generated from gene sequencing studies and the fossil record.
This “evolutionary diversity” is arguably a more biologically meaningful measurement of biodiversity than traditional statistics such as species richness and abundance. Using repeated measurements on thousands of Forest Inventory and Analysis plots, results have detected recent broad-scale patterns of forest biodiversity change, including increasing seedling diversity in the South and decreasing seedling diversity in the North. These new indicators of forest biodiversity change will allow for the robust and rapid monitoring of climate change effects on biodiversity across broad regions.
Contact: Kevin Potter, North Carolina State University cooperating scientist, (919) 549-4071, firstname.lastname@example.org