Abstract (from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10980-015-0160-1):
Changing aspen distribution in response to climate change and fire is a major focus of biodiversity conservation, yet little is known about the potential response of aspen to these two driving forces along topoclimatic gradients.
This study is set to evaluate how aspen distribution might shift in response to different climate-fire scenarios in a semi-arid montane landscape, and quantify the influence of fire regime along topoclimatic gradients.
We used a novel integration of a forest landscape succession and disturbance model (LANDIS-II) with a fine-scale climatic water deficit approach to simulate dynamics of aspen and associated conifer and shrub species over the next 150 years under various climate-fire scenarios.
Simulations suggest that many aspen stands could persist without fire for centuries under current climate conditions. However, a simulated 2–5 °C increase in temperature caused a substantial reduction of aspen coverage at lower elevations and a modest increase at upper elevations, leading to an overall reduction of aspen range at the landscape level. Increasing fire activity may favor aspen increase at its upper elevation limits adjacent to coniferous forest, but may also favor reduction of aspen at lower elevation limits adjacent to xeric shrubland.
Our study highlights the importance of incorporating fine-scale terrain effects on climatic water deficit and ecohydrology when modeling species distribution response to climate change. This modeling study suggests that climate mitigation and adaptation strategies that use fire would benefit from consideration of spatial context at landscape scales.