Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Forest-meadow dynamics in the central western Oregon Cascades : topographic, biotic,and environmental change effects Public Deposited

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  • Montane meadows comprise a small area of the predominantly forested landscape of the Oregon Cascade Range. Tree encroachment in the last century in these areas has threatened a loss of biodiversity and habitat. Climate change in the coming century may accelerate tree encroachment into meadows, and exacerbate biodiversity loss. Multiple environmental factors of topography, biotic interactions, climate, and disturbance, whose interactions and impacts are unclear, influence forest encroachment into meadows. This dissertation examines these complex interactions and factors in two montane meadow ecosystems at Lookout (44º 22′N, 122º 13′W) of the Western Cascade Range and Bunchgrass (44º 17′N, 121º 57′W) of the High Cascade Range of Oregon. A change detection analysis quantifies how topographic factors and proximity to edge were related to tree encroachment into the two montane meadows of the Cascade Range of Oregon. Areas that have experienced tree encroachment were identified and partitioned by distance to forest edge, aspect, and slope class using historical air photo interpretation over 54 years from 1946, 1967, and 2000 at Lookout and Bunchgrass meadows in the western Cascades of Oregon. Meadow area decreased by more than 1% per year, with a net decrease of 60%, and a net loss of 22 ha at Lookout Meadow and 28 ha at Bunchgrass Meadow from 1946 to 2000. From 72% (Lookout) to 77% (Bunchgrass) of meadow area within 5 m of a forest edge became forest by 2000. Twothirds to three-quarters of meadow area on south and west aspects at both sites converted to forest from 1946 to 2000. Two-thirds of meadow conversion to forest from 1946 to 2000 occurred on slopes <6° at Bunchgrass Meadow, but meadow conversion to forest was more evenly distributed among slope classes at Lookout Meadow. Restoration efforts may need to focus on westerly or southerly aspects in areas < 5 m from the forest edge. The effects of biotic interactions and climate on the spatial patterns of two species (Lodgepole pine and Grand fir) were tested at Bunchgrass Meadow, a 37-ha meadow complex in the High Cascades of Oregon. A spatial analysis was used to quantify spatial patterns of more than 900 saplings and trees of these two species that had established since 1916 in a 0.21 ha early tree succession area. The light- and heat-tolerant species, Lodgepole pine, tended to establish initially and at relatively longer distances from other trees; Lodgepole seedlings avoided establishment within 2 m of >35-yr-old Grand fir. In contrast, the shade-tolerant species, Grand fir, tended to establish subsequently at relatively short distances to other trees, and was closely associated with older trees of both species. Lodgepole pine establishment was associated with warm, dry late summers, while Grand fir establishment was associated with wet springs and cool summers. Tree encroachment was regulated by both climate variability and biotic interactions responding to species’ environmental tolerances. Environmental tolerances influenced the rate of tree species establishment in the meadow, but biotic interactions were more important than exogenous factors, such as climate, in controlling the spatial patterns of encroachment dynamics. The relative contributions of climate change, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and fire regimes, and their interacting effects on past and future non-forested areas were investigated with a modeling experiment. A generalized ecosystem model, LPJ-GUESS, was used to disentangle the impacts of environmental drivers (increased temperature, increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and changing fire frequency) on primary production, biomass, and extent of meadow (non-forest area) at a site representing montane meadow and forests of the western Cascades of Oregon. Model projections based on a moderately high future-warming scenario (4 °C increase from 2000 to 2100) indicated that fire disturbance played the largest role in reducing projected forest area and expanding non-forested areas, while fire suppression had the largest opposite effect. Increased temperature altered species composition to higher temperature-tolerant tree species, but it did not have a significant effect on the projected extent of forest or nonforest areas. Increased atmospheric CO2 concentration increased forest biomass, but it did not significantly change the projected extent of non-forest area. Projected changes in the extent of forest and non-forest areas lagged behind the potential impacts of environmental changes on primary production and biomass. The net effects of potential future environmental factors point to a continued expansion of forests and reduction of non-forested areas if fire suppression is maintained. The use of fire or tree removal may continue to be required to preserve these unique and vital meadow ecosystems of the Oregon Cascades.
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