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1.  Using a Data-Constrained Model of Home Range Establishment to Predict Abundance in Spatially Heterogeneous Habitats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40599.
Mechanistic modelling approaches that explicitly translate from individual-scale resource selection to the distribution and abundance of a larger population may be better suited to predicting responses to spatially heterogeneous habitat alteration than commonly-used regression models. We developed an individual-based model of home range establishment that, given a mapped distribution of local habitat values, estimates species abundance by simulating the number and position of viable home ranges that can be maintained across a spatially heterogeneous area. We estimated parameters for this model from data on red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi) abundances in 31 boreal forest sites in Ontario, Canada. The home range model had considerably more support from these data than both non-spatial regression models based on the same original habitat variables and a mean-abundance null model. It had nearly equivalent support to a non-spatial regression model that, like the home range model, scaled an aggregate measure of habitat value from local associations with habitat resources. The home range and habitat-value regression models gave similar predictions for vole abundance under simulations of light- and moderate-intensity partial forest harvesting, but the home range model predicted lower abundances than the regression model under high-intensity disturbance. Empirical regression-based approaches for predicting species abundance may overlook processes that affect habitat use by individuals, and often extrapolate poorly to novel habitat conditions. Mechanistic home range models that can be parameterized against abundance data from different habitats permit appropriate scaling from individual- to population-level habitat relationships, and can potentially provide better insights into responses to disturbance.
PMCID: PMC3398050  PMID: 22815772
2.  How Stand Productivity Results from Size- and Competition-Dependent Growth and Mortality 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28660.
A better understanding of the relationship between stand structure and productivity is required for the development of: a) scalable models that can accurately predict growth and yield dynamics for the world's forests; and b) stand management regimes that maximize wood and/or timber yield, while maintaining structural and species diversity.
We develop a cohort-based canopy competition model (“CAIN”), parameterized with inventory data from Ontario, Canada, to examine the relationship between stand structure and productivity. Tree growth, mortality and recruitment are quantified as functions of diameter and asymmetric competition, using a competition index (CAIh) defined as the total projected area of tree crowns at a given tree's mid-crown height. Stand growth, mortality, and yield are simulated for inventoried stands, and also for hypothetical stands differing in total volume and tree size distribution.
For a given diameter, tree growth decreases as CAIh increases, whereas the probability of mortality increases. For a given CAIh, diameter growth exhibits a humped pattern with respect to diameter, whereas mortality exhibits a U-shaped pattern reflecting senescence of large trees. For a fixed size distribution, stand growth increases asymptotically with total density, whereas mortality increases monotonically. Thus, net productivity peaks at an intermediate volume of 100–150 m3/ha, and approaches zero at 250 m3/ha. However, for a fixed stand volume, mortality due to senescence decreases if the proportion of large trees decreases as overall density increases. This size-related reduction in mortality offsets the density-related increase in mortality, resulting in a 40% increase in yield.
Size-related variation in growth and mortality exerts a profound influence on the relationship between stand structure and productivity. Dense stands dominated by small trees yield more wood than stands dominated by fewer large trees, because the relative growth rate of small trees is higher, and because they are less likely to die.
PMCID: PMC3236764  PMID: 22174861
3.  Quantifying variation in forest disturbance, and its effects on aboveground biomass dynamics, across the eastern United States 
Global Change Biology  2013;19(5):1504-1517.
The role of tree mortality in the global carbon balance is complicated by strong spatial and temporal heterogeneity that arises from the stochastic nature of carbon loss through disturbance. Characterizing spatio-temporal variation in mortality (including disturbance) and its effects on forest and carbon dynamics is thus essential to understanding the current global forest carbon sink, and to predicting how it will change in future. We analyzed forest inventory data from the eastern United States to estimate plot-level variation in mortality (relative to a long-term background rate for individual trees) for nine distinct forest regions. Disturbances that produced at least a fourfold increase in tree mortality over an approximately 5 year interval were observed in 1–5% of plots in each forest region. The frequency of disturbance was lowest in the northeast, and increased southwards along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts as fire and hurricane disturbances became progressively more common. Across the central and northern parts of the region, natural disturbances appeared to reflect a diffuse combination of wind, insects, disease, and ice storms. By linking estimated covariation in tree growth and mortality over time with a data-constrained forest dynamics model, we simulated the implications of stochastic variation in mortality for long-term aboveground biomass changes across the eastern United States. A geographic gradient in disturbance frequency induced notable differences in biomass dynamics between the least- and most-disturbed regions, with variation in mortality causing the latter to undergo considerably stronger fluctuations in aboveground stand biomass over time. Moreover, regional simulations showed that a given long-term increase in mean mortality rates would support greater aboveground biomass when expressed through disturbance effects compared with background mortality, particularly for early-successional species. The effects of increased tree mortality on carbon stocks and forest composition may thus depend partly on whether future mortality increases are chronic or episodic in nature.
PMCID: PMC3657128  PMID: 23505000
CAIN; carbon fluxes; forest inventory and analysis; hierarchical Bayes; mortality; simulation modeling; tree demography

Results 1-3 (3)