A harmonized database of European forest simulations under climate change


Process-based forest models combine biological, physical, and chemical process understanding to simulate forest dynamics as an emergent property of the system. As such, they are valuable tools to investigate the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems. Specifically, they allow testing of hypotheses regarding long-term ecosystem dynamics and provide means to assess the impacts of climate scenarios on future forest development. As a consequence, numerous local-scale simulation studies have been conducted over the past decades to assess the impacts of climate change on forests. These studies apply the best available models tailored to local conditions, parameterized and evaluated by local experts. However, this treasure trove of knowledge on climate change responses remains underexplored to date, as a consistent and harmonized dataset of local model simulations is missing. Here, our objectives were (i) to compile existing local simulations on forest development under climate change in Europe in a common database, (ii) to harmonize them to a common suite of output variables, and (iii) to provide a standardized vector of auxiliary environmental variables for each simulated location to aid subsequent investigations. Our dataset of European stand- and landscape-level forest simulations contains over 1.1 million simulation runs representing 135 million simulation years for more than 13,000 unique locations spread across Europe. The data were harmonized to consistently describe forest development in terms of stand structure (dominant height), composition (dominant species, admixed species), and functioning (leaf area index). Auxiliary variables provided include consistent daily climate information (temperature, precipitation, radiation, vapor pressure deficit) as well as information on local site conditions (soil depth, soil physical properties, soil water holding capacity, plant-available nitrogen). The present dataset facilitates analyses across models and locations, with the aim to better harness the valuable information contained in local simulations for large-scale policy support, and for fostering a deeper understanding of the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems in Europe.

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