Rapid Regeneration Offsets Losses from Warming-Induced Tree Mortality in an Aspen-Dominated Broad-Leaved Forest in Northern China
Worldwide tree mortality as induced by climate change presents a challenge to forest managers. To successfully manage vulnerable forests requires the capacity of regeneration to compensate for losses from tree mortality. We observed rapid regeneration and the growth release of young trees after warming-induced mortality in a David aspen-dominated (Populus davidiana) broad-leaved forest in Inner Mongolia, China, as based on individual tree measurements taken in 2012 and 2015 from a 6-ha permanent plot. Warming and drought stress killed large trees 10–15 m tall with a total number of 2881 trees during 2011–2012, and also thinned the upper crowns. David aspen recruitment increased 2 times during 2012–2015 and resulted in a high transition probability of David aspen replacing the same or other species, whereas the recruitment of Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) was much lower: it decreased from 2012 to 2015, indicating that rapid regeneration represented a regrowth phase for David aspen, and not succession to Mongolian oak. Further, we found that the recruitment density increased with canopy openness, thus implying that warming-induced mortality enhanced regeneration. Our results suggest that David aspen has a high regrowth ability to offset individual losses from warming-induced mortality. This important insight has implications for managing this vulnerable forest in the semi-arid region of northern China.
Citation: Zhao P, Xu C, Zhou M, Zhang B, Ge P, Zeng N, et al. (2018) Rapid regeneration offsets losses from warming-induced tree mortality in an aspen-dominated broad-leaved forest in northern China. PLoS ONE 13(4): e0195630. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195630