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Connecting regional-scale tree distribution models with seed dispersal kernels

August 22, 2021

Regional scale forest distribution models are important tools for biogeography and understanding the structure of forest communities in space. These models take climate and geographic variables as input and are therefore helpful for long-term decision support and climate adaptation planning. Generally, local processes of tree germination and seedling survival are resolved probabilistically with explanatory variables such as elevation, latitude, exposure, soil type, moisture availability, climate and weather inputs and `trained’ using landscape and regional presence-absence data and machine learning techniques. How seeds are distributed in these models, that is, determining the dispersal kernel, is far more problematic. The challenge is that variables conditioning vertebrate seed dispersal (motility and probability of utilization or caching in response to cover type) are not represented in large scale distribution models, and in fact vary on scales (10-100 meters) that are much smaller than the smallest pixel size for the distribution model (1-10 kilometers). We present a homogenized seed digestion kernel (HSDK) which incorporates this scale separation. Homogenization naturally links highly variable small-scale processes (like seed foraging and caching by birds and rodents) with large scale effects (like dispersal of seeds over tens of kilometers). We develop a homogenization strategy to predict seed dispersal on landscape scales, analytically linking small-scale variables (landscape fraction cover by tree type, gut residence times and cover type utilization by frugivorous birds) with large scale behaviors. Closed form approximations are developed in two dimensions for two limiting cases of seed handling behavior, and the approach is illustrated using landscape data and piñon-pine dispersal in a 630,000 square kilometer region in the southwestern US.

Publication Year 2022
Title Connecting regional-scale tree distribution models with seed dispersal kernels
DOI 10.1016/j.amc.2021.126591
Authors Ram C. Neupane, James A. Powell, Thomas C. Edwards
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Mathematics and Computation
Index ID 70229452
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle