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Forskningsartikel2021Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Interactions between local and global drivers determine long-term trends in boreal forest understorey vegetation

Hedwall, Per-Ola; Uria-Diez, Jaime; Brunet, Jorg; Gustafsson, Lena; Axelsson, Anna-Lena; Strengbom, Joachim


Aim Global change effects on forest ecosystems are increasingly claimed to be context dependent, indicated by interactions between global and local environmental drivers. Most examples of such context dependencies originate from temperate systems, while limited research comes from the boreal biome. Here we set out to test if interactions between climate warming, nitrogen deposition, land-use change resulting in increasing forest density, and soil pH drive long-term changes in understorey vegetation in boreal forests. Location Sweden. Time period 1953-2012. Major taxa studied Vascular plants. Methods We used long-term (50 years) National Forest Inventory data on forest understorey vegetation in Sweden to model the combined effects of climate warming, nitrogen deposition, increase in forest density (tree basal area), and soil pH. Results Our results identify increasing temperature, nitrogen deposition and denser, shadier forest conditions as the main drivers of understorey vegetation changes during this time period. More importantly, we found that these effects varied with local conditions, that is, that the change towards a more nitrophilic understorey vegetation was more pronounced at low than high soil pH. Forest density was an important modulator of nitrogen deposition and temperature increase, with effects generally decreasing with density. Decreased cover of ericaceous dwarf shrubs was driven by both forest density and nitrogen deposition, with a stronger effect at low than at high pH. Main conclusions Our results highlight that to understand forest ecosystems' response to global change, and to make adequate management decisions to mitigate the effects of global change, we need to understand how changes in local environmental factors (forest density and soil pH) interact with global-scale drivers (nitrogen deposition and climate warming). Neglecting such interactions will lead to incorrect estimations of effects. In our case, we would for example, have underestimated the eutrophication effects on acid soils, which constitute a considerable part of the boreal biome.


air pollution; environmental change; forest floor vegetation; forestry; interacting drivers; long-term data

Publicerad i

Global Ecology and Biogeography
2021, Volym: 30, nummer: 9, sidor: 1765-1780