Is there a substitution of Pinaceae by Fagaceae in temperate forests at the global scale?

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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Reports on forest decline, changes in species composition and the distribution of forests in response to changes in climate and land use are increasing worldwide. Temperate forests are largely dominated by two tree families: Pinaceae and Fagaceae. These two families have distinct functional properties and different responses to environmental factors. Several local and regional assessments, particularly in Europe, have found that species of Fagaceae are invading areas previously dominated by Pinaceae. The main aim of this synthesis study is to analyze the relative dynamics of Pinaceae and Fagaceae species in temperate forests around the world, with the following specific objectives: (1) establish if there is a consistent directional substitution of Pinaceae by Fagaceae worldwide; and (2) determine whether these directional changes are associated with specific climatic conditions or certain geographic regions, reflecting differences in historical forest management and land use. A bibliographic review was performed and 51 papers were found that met the search criteria, including a total of 121 case studies in which the relative dynamics of Pinaceae and Fagaceae were evaluated. Our results show that the relative abundance of Fagaceae increased in 71% of cases (P → F dynamics), whereas Pinaceae relative abundance increased in 17% of cases (F → P) and 12% of cases did not show clear changes. Increases of Fagaceae relative to Pinaceae were less clear in areas where vegetation dynamics were driven by natural disturbances. Our results indicate a widespread increase in dominance of Fagaceae species at the expense of Pinaceae across northern temperate forests, with the exception of Eastern North America. The potential implications for ecosystem function and forest resilience under ongoing climate change are large and clearly deserve further study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-47
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Broadleaves
  • Conifers
  • Global change
  • Pinus
  • Quercus
  • Vegetation dynamics


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