The interacting effects of land use change, climate change and suppression of natural disturbances on landscape forest structure in the Swiss Alps
Ecosystems are being modified by a multiplicity of interacting natural and anthropogenic factors. The most important of these factors include changes in land use, changes in climate, and alterations of disturbance regimes. Many studies have considered these factors separately; however, these factors do not act in isolation, but rather interact to affect ecosystem structure and function. In the present study, we analyzed the interacting effects of abandonment of agricultural practices, increases in temperature, and anthropogenic suppression of the avalanche regime on landscape forest structure (percent canopy cover) in the Davos region of the Swiss Alps over the past 45 years. Compared to 1954, the Davos region is now characterized by greater forest cover and lower landscape heterogeneity. The greatest increases in forest structural stage occurred in areas in which land use changed from agricultural to non-agricultural, that were the closest to formerly active avalanche tracks, and in which the percentage change in number of growing degree days (GDD) was high. Change in land use was the most important variable contributing to changes in landscape forest structure, followed by changes in the disturbance regime, then changes in GDD. There also exist clear interactions among these variables, which indicate, for example, that the effects of the suppression of disturbances and changes in climate are contingent on the more immediate effects of changes in land use. Understanding the relative importance of, and interactions among, changes in land use, climate, and disturbances can contribute to an improved understanding of ecosystem dynamics and to better management decisions. © 2011 The Authors.
Kulakowski, Dominik; Bebi, Peter; and Rixen, Christian, "The interacting effects of land use change, climate change and suppression of natural disturbances on landscape forest structure in the Swiss Alps" (2011). Geography. 308.