Species diversity and ecosystem response to carbon dioxide fertilization: conclusions from a temperate forest model


B.M. Bolker, fax 609-258-1334, e-mail


This paper explores how the response of a temperate forest ecosystem to climate change might depend on species diversity and community change. In particular, we look at the dynamics of a model of temperate forest growth under doubled CO2. We combine a detailed, field-calibrated model of forest dynamics (Pacala et al 1993) with greenhouse data on the range of seedling biomass growth response to doubled CO2 concentrations (Bazzaz et al. 1990; Bazzaz & Miao 1993). Because total ecosystem response to climate change depends delicately on many environmental variables other than CO2, we isolate the effects of community change by comparing runs of the regular model, allowing dynamic community change, with runs of a reduced model that holds species composition static by using a single tree species with average parameters. Simulations that allowed community change instead of holding species composition constant showed a roughly 30% additional increase in total basal area over time scales of 50-150 years. Although the model omits many possible feedbacks and mechanisms associated with climate change, it suggests the large potential effects that species differences and feedbacks can have in ecosystem models and reinforces the possible importance of diversity to ecosystem function (Naeem et ai 1994; Tilman & Downing 1994) over time scales within the planning horizon for global change policy.