Authors: L. Silva and M. Anand 1
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  • 1 University of Guelph Global Ecological Change Laboratory, School of Environmental Sciences Guelph Ontario Canada
  • | 2 University of California Davis Biogeochemistry and Nutrient Cycling Laboratory, Department of Land Air and Water Resources Davis CA USA
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Forest biomes have expanded and contracted in response to past climate fluctuations, but it is not clear how they will respond to human-induced atmospheric change. We provide a review of the literature, describing historical links between biogeographical and atmospheric patterns, comparing characteristics of forest biomes and describing expected changes in climate forcings from observed range shifts. Over the geological history, climate fluctuations prompted changes in forest distribution that, in turn, stabilized the atmosphere. Over the past century, warming-induced stress has caused widespread declines of mature forests, but new forests have expanded into open areas of boreal, tropical and temperate regions. Historically, forest expansion happened at much faster rates in cold than in warm regions. Across biomes, species interactions control the use of limiting resources, regulating community dynamics and expansion rates in response to climate variability. Modern impacts of land use change on the distribution of forest biomes are well understood, but the expansion of new forests and their role in stabilizing the atmosphere are yet to be accounted for in global models. Expansion of tropical and temperate forests would yield a negative climate forcing through increased carbon sequestration and evaporative cooling, but in the boreal region forest expansion could amplify climate warming due to changes in albedo. Although qualitative descriptions of forest-atmosphere interactions are possible based on existing records, the net climate forcing from forest range shifts remains uncertain. Three critical gaps in knowledge hinder rigorous evaluations of causality necessary to probe for linkages between climatic and biogeographical patterns: (i) reconstructions of vegetation dynamics have not sufficiently represented warm biomes; (ii) climate and vegetation dynamics are typically assessed at non-comparable scales; and (iii) single-proxies are normally used to simultaneously infer changes in climate and vegetation distribution, leading to redundancy in interpretation. Addressing these issues would improve our ability to decipher past and predict future outcomes of forest-atmosphere interactions.

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Senior editors

Editor(s)-in-Chief: Podani, János

Editor(s)-in-Chief: Jordán, Ferenc

Honorary Editor(s): Orlóci, László

Editorial Board

  • Madhur Anand, CAN (forest ecology, computational ecology, and ecological complexity)
  • S. Bagella, ITA (temporal dynamics, including succession, community level patterns of species richness and diversity, experimental studies of plant, animal and microbial communities, plant communities of the Mediterranean)
  • P. Batáry, HUN (landscape ecology, agroecology, ecosystem services)
  • P. A. V. Borges, PRT (community level patterns of species richness and diversity, sampling in theory and practice)
  • A. Davis, GER (supervised learning, multitrophic interactions, food webs, multivariate analysis, ecological statistics, experimental design, fractals, parasitoids, species diversity, community assembly, ticks, biodiversity, climate change, biological networks, cranes, olfactometry, evolution)
  • Z. Elek, HUN (insect ecology, invertebrate conservation, population dynamics, especially of long-term field studies, insect sampling)
  • T. Kalapos, HUN (community level plant ecophysiology, grassland ecology, vegetation-soil relationship)
  • G. M. Kovács, HUN (microbial ecology, plant-fungus interactions, mycorrhizas)
  • W. C. Liu,TWN (community-based ecological theory and modelling issues, temporal dynamics, including succession, trophic interactions, competition, species response to the environment)
  • L. Mucina, AUS (vegetation survey, syntaxonomy, evolutionary community ecology, assembly rules, global vegetation patterns, mediterranean ecology)
  • P. Ódor, HUN (plant communities, bryophyte ecology, numerical methods)
  • F. Rigal, FRA (island biogeography, macroecology, functional diversity, arthropod ecology)
  • D. Rocchini, ITA (biodiversity, multiple scales, spatial scales, species distribution, spatial ecology, remote sensing, ecological informatics, computational ecology)
  • F. Samu, HUN (landscape ecology, biological control, generalist predators, spiders, arthropods, conservation biology, sampling methods)
  • U. Scharler, ZAF (ecological networks, food webs, estuaries, marine, mangroves, stoichiometry, temperate, subtropical)
  • D. Schmera, HUN (aquatic communities, functional diversity, ecological theory)
  • M. Scotti, GER (community-based ecological theory and modelling issues, trophic interactions, competition, species response to the environment, ecological networks)
  • B. Tóthmérész, HUN (biodiversity, soil zoology, spatial models, macroecology, ecological modeling)
  • S. Wollrab, GER (aquatic ecology, food web dynamics, plankton ecology, predator-prey interactions)


Advisory Board

  • S. Bartha, HUN
  • S.L. Collins, USA
  • T. Czárán, HUN
  • E. Feoli, ITA
  • N. Kenkel, CAN
  • J. Lepš, CZE
  • S. Mazzoleni, ITA
  • Cs. Moskát, HUN
  • B. Oborny, HUN
  • M.W. Palmer, USA
  • G.P. Patil, USA
  • V. de Patta Pillar, BRA
  • C. Ricotta, ITA
  • Á. Szentesi, HUN



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Community Ecology
Language English
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Springer Nature Switzerland AG
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ISSN 1585-8553 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2756 (Online)