New Forest-Climate Relationships Revealed by “Super Studies” Amassing & Organizing Vast Information

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 11 January 2019


New Relationships Revealed by “Super Studies” Amassing & Organizing Vast Information

These nine measures reveal how forests are controlled by climate,
Santa Fe Institute, December 27, 2018.


Super Study
Functional Traits
“...vital signs for a forest are captured in key traits such as the amount of nitrogen in a tree's leaves, the leaf area, or the density of the wood. These "functional traits" can impact how trees grow -- and therefore how forests respond to climate change.”

“...analyze existing data from trait studies on forest communities to see what could be revealed about these shifts on a global scale.”

“...take what functional data we have available from databases and pair this with locally collected field data, as well as data about species abundance, to say something about climate-biodiversity relationships that we couldn't say before."

Vast Trove of Functional Trait & Location Data
“ from 421 tree communities around the world, including information from 55,983 individual trees from 2,701 species, and examined a range of "functional traits" that influence individual growth, such as plant height, wood density, leaf area, and the amount of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in a leaf.

With Weather Data!
To determine the climatic conditions these tree communities are living in, they also analyzed the temperature, precipitation, wind speed and vapor pressure in each one.”

“...examine how climate is influencing functional traits in forest communities on a global scale -- found evidence of major changes in these traits...”

“...two climatic factors in particular had an outsized effect on trait diversity overall: temperature variability -- not just mean temperature -- and vapor pressure.”

“They...found evidence that forests are currently shifting their traits in response to global warming.”

“This is just the start in gaining a better grasp of how climate change is affecting functional traits in forest communities...”


Bottom Line

The Super Study

The digital power of organizing vast troves of data has revealed relationships previously unseen.



Tree, Forest, & Plant News, 2019


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