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Modeling Northeastern Forest Ecosystems

Lead Scientist(s): Dr Gary M Lovett

Forests of the Northeastern US are experiencing multiple, simultaneous environmental changes, including climate change, air pollution, and invasive forest insects and diseases. Predicting the future functioning of the forests in the face of these multiple stresses is very challenging, and requires a computer model that can take into account key processes in the forest and simulates how they interact with each other and with the changing environment.

We have developed a computer model, called Spe-CN, that simulates such important forests functions and productivity, nitrogen cycling, carbon storage, and loss of nitrate to streams. The model allows the user to input scenarios of climate, air pollution (nitrogen deposition) and tree species change due to forest pests, and it predicts the future of forest ecosystem functioning as these scenarios play out.

Simplified diagram of processes in the Spe-CN model.

The model can help scientists and forest managers understand how forest ecosystems will respond to the environment that forests are likely to face in the future. 

For more information see the following publications:

Crowley, K. F., G. M. Lovett, M. A. Arthur, and K. C. Weathers. 2016. Long-term effects of pest-induced tree species change on carbon and nitrogen cycling in northeastern US forests: A modeling analysis. Forest Ecology and Management 372:269-290.

Crowley, K. F. and G. M. Lovett. 2017. Effects of nitrogen deposition on nitrate leaching from forests of the northeastern United States will change with tree species composition. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 47:997-1009.