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      Predicting Whole Forest Structure, Primary Productivity, and Biomass Density From Maximum Tree Size and Resource Limitations

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          Abstract

          In the face of uncertain biological response to climate change and the many critiques concerning model complexity it is increasingly important to develop predictive mechanistic frameworks that capture the dominant features of ecological communities and their dependencies on environmental factors. This is particularly important for critical global processes such as biomass changes, carbon export, and biogenic climate feedback. Past efforts have successfully understood a broad spectrum of plant and community traits across a range of biological diversity and body size, including tree size distributions and maximum tree height, from mechanical, hydrodynamic, and resource constraints. Recently it was shown that global scaling relationships for net primary productivity are correlated with local meteorology and the overall biomass density within a forest. Along with previous efforts, this highlights the connection between widely observed allometric relationships and predictive ecology. An emerging goal of ecological theory is to gain maximum predictive power with the least number of parameters. Here we show that the explicit dependence of such critical quantities can be systematically predicted knowing just the size of the largest tree. This is supported by data showing that forests converge to our predictions as they mature. Since maximum tree size can be calculated from local meteorology this provides a general framework for predicting the generic structure of forests from local environmental parameters thereby addressing a range of critical Earth-system questions.

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          Most cited references 23

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          A physically based, variable contributing area model of basin hydrology / Un modèle à base physique de zone d'appel variable de l'hydrologie du bassin versant

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            Improvements of the MODIS terrestrial gross and net primary production global data set

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              Recent patterns and mechanisms of carbon exchange by terrestrial ecosystems.

              Knowledge of carbon exchange between the atmosphere, land and the oceans is important, given that the terrestrial and marine environments are currently absorbing about half of the carbon dioxide that is emitted by fossil-fuel combustion. This carbon uptake is therefore limiting the extent of atmospheric and climatic change, but its long-term nature remains uncertain. Here we provide an overview of the current state of knowledge of global and regional patterns of carbon exchange by terrestrial ecosystems. Atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen data confirm that the terrestrial biosphere was largely neutral with respect to net carbon exchange during the 1980s, but became a net carbon sink in the 1990s. This recent sink can be largely attributed to northern extratropical areas, and is roughly split between North America and Eurasia. Tropical land areas, however, were approximately in balance with respect to carbon exchange, implying a carbon sink that offset emissions due to tropical deforestation. The evolution of the terrestrial carbon sink is largely the result of changes in land use over time, such as regrowth on abandoned agricultural land and fire prevention, in addition to responses to environmental changes, such as longer growing seasons, and fertilization by carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Nevertheless, there remain considerable uncertainties as to the magnitude of the sink in different regions and the contribution of different processes.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                2015-06-04
                Article
                1506.01691

                http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

                Custom metadata
                26 pages, 4 figures, 1 Table
                q-bio.PE physics.bio-ph

                Evolutionary Biology, Biophysics

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