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Glacial Legacy on the establishment of evergreen vs. summergreen boreal forests

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GlacialLegacy (Glacial Legacy on the establishment of evergreen vs. summergreen boreal forests)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-10-31

Boreal forests, which make up roughly one‐third of the world's total forested area, provide critical ecosystem services including carbon stocks, climate‐feedbacks, permafrost‐stability, biodiversity, and economic benefits. These services differ markedly between the two boreal forest biomes i.e. the evergreen needle‐leaf forests of North America and Europe, and the summergreen needle‐leaf forests covering much of northern Asia. However, the basic mechanisms that control the distributions of boreal biomes remain poorly understood. The potential future changes in boreal ecosystem services are therefore uncertain, which is a matter of local, regional, and global concern. The GlacialLegacy project will aim to answer the timely questions “Why is northern Asia dominated by larch forests?" and “How will these forests change in the future?”. My new hypothesis is that summergreen and evergreen needle‐leaf forests represent alternative quasistable states that occur today under similar climatic conditions, but were triggered by different environmental conditions and gene pools during the Last Glacial. GlacialLegacy will use coherent empirical and modelling approaches to investigate this hypothesis across the entire Northern Hemisphere. Eventually, these predictions will aim to anticipate potentially critical future ecosystem service changes on a continental scale, thus providing the knowledge base required for adaptation strategies to be prepared.
The hypothesis of project i.e. a substantial Glacial Legacy on boreal forests was presented to the scientific community in a peer-reviewed paper. Field works in Siberia were implemented and laboratory works. Furthermore, we already synthesized the available pollen data to investigated the post‐ice age forest establishment. Also, we established a new palaeogenomic method that was used to investigate the tree populations surviving the glacial period. We set up a model that couples forest dynamics and permafrost which can assess Larix forests may self-stabilize due to complex feedbacks.
We configured an individual-based spatially explicit vegetation model that can simulate post‐glacial forest migration taking into account genetic effects on population dynamics. This is new. Also we are able to investigate how genetic differences among forest tree populations impact the post-glacial invasion history on continental scale as we developed and applied a new genomic method for lake sediments.
Vegetation plot studies during field works in the Omyakon Region in summer 2020, Yakutia, Russia.
Illustration of the concept of “boreal forest bi‐stability and glacial legacy”
Team during the field works in Chukotka looking at Lake Ilierney (photo by Stefan Kruse)