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Effects of Microsite Characteristics on Tree Recruitment in the Rocky Mountains

Demographic shifts in plant species distribution are expected as the effects of climate change become increasingly pronounced. These shifts will be dependent upon seed dispersal and germination in suitable habitats (“regeneration”), and the suitability of these habitats is determined by species-specific preferences of site conditions, which vary widely within small scales or “microsites.” While studying the effect of microsite conditions on regeneration of 6 common Rocky Mountain subalpine species across 24 microsites with varying conditions, I found that successful regeneration in the first growing season across several plots was limited to only Douglas fir and lodgepole pine. This may indicate more adaptability in these species and suggest that they will be more successful in shifting their ranges as their current ranges become unsuitable due to climate change. More research is needed to fully understand the effect of microsite condition on regeneration as site conditions can vary drastically across growing seasons.

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