Where can managers effectively resist climate‐driven ecological transformation in pinyon–juniper woodlands of the US Southwest?

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    • Abstract:
      Pinyon–juniper (PJ) woodlands are an important component of dryland ecosystems across the US West and are potentially susceptible to ecological transformation. However, predicting woodland futures is complicated by species‐specific strategies for persisting and reproducing under drought conditions, uncertainty in future climate, and limitations to inferring demographic rates from forest inventory data. Here, we leverage new demographic models to quantify how climate change is expected to alter population demographics in five PJ tree species in the US West and place our results in the context of a climate adaptation framework to resist, accept, or direct ecological transformation. Two of five study species, Pinus edulis and Juniperus monosperma, are projected to experience population declines, driven by both rising mortality and decreasing recruitment rates. These declines are reasonably consistent across various climate futures, and the magnitude of uncertainty in population growth due to future climate is less than uncertainty due to how demographic rates will respond to changing climate. We assess the effectiveness of management to reduce tree density and mitigate competition, and use the results to classify southwest woodlands into areas where transformation is (a) unlikely and can be passively resisted, (b) likely but may be resisted by active management, and (c) likely unavoidable, requiring managers to accept or direct the trajectory. Population declines are projected to promote ecological transformation in the warmer and drier PJ communities of the southwest, encompassing 37.1%–81.1% of our sites, depending on future climate scenarios. Less than 20% of sites expected to transform away from PJ have potential to retain existing tree composition by density reduction. Our results inform where this adaptation strategy could successfully resist ecological transformation in coming decades and allow for a portfolio design approach across the geographic range of PJ woodlands. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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