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Models for Forest Growth and Mortality: Linking Demography to Competition and Climate Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dawson, Andria E
Supervisor and department
Comeau, Phil (Department of Renewable Resources)
Lewis, Mark (Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Blenis, Peter (Department of Renewable Resources)
Ellner, Stephen (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University)
Stadt, Ken (Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development)
Prasad, Narasimha (Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences)
MacDonald, Ellen (Department of Renewable Resources)
Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
Department of Renewable Resources
Applied Mathematics
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The Earth’s forests are of great economic, ecological, and social importance, and sustaining them is paramount for mitigating climate change. To successfully sus- tain forests we must understand their internal demographic dynamics and their relationship to climate. In this thesis, I developed methods for investigating forest dynamics and understanding their relationship to climate. I applied these methods to data from the Alberta boreal forest and the oak forests of the Eastern United States. First, dendrochronological methods were used to develop a retrospective data set from the Alberta mixedwood boreal. This data was used to estimate white spruce mortality and construct mortality models based on either recent growth or competition. Both models classify dead or live spruce with 75% accuracy, indi- cating the potential of using more easily available competition data. Second, I developed a quantitative approach for predicting Alberta mixedwood demogra- phy as a function of tree size and competition predictors using a size-structured integral projection model (IPM). Two models were defined, one with competitive structure, and one without. Model projections were tested using independent data, and results show that the IPM with competitive structure better predicts annual size distribution. Implementation of the IPM presents technical challenges: IPMs must be numerically discretized, and the choice of integration scheme may lead to accuracy or efficiency loss. I analyzed several quadrature schemes for representa- tive IPMs in the third part of the thesis. Results show that the midpoint method is often sufficient, but an Adjusted Gauss-Legendre method leads to higher accuracy. In the final part of the thesis I considered how climate is related to annual growth of chestnut oak in the the Eastern United States. Previously, trees growing in closed-canopy forests were not thought to produce ring-widths useable in climate reconstruction. However, by employing more advanced mathematical tools I used a network of oak forests to identify a strong enough precipitation signal to extend the current meteorological record back 150 years. My thesis illustrates the im- portance of careful model formulation, implementation and validation in resolving climate and competition effects in forest dynamics.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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