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Trends of forest and ecosystem services changes in the Mescalero Apache Tribal Lands
Ecological Applications  (IF4.657),  Pub Date : 2021-09-28, DOI: 10.1002/eap.2459
Alicia Azpeleta Tarancón, Andrew J. Sánchez Meador, Thora Padilla, Peter Z. Fulé, Yeon-Su Kim

Forests are critically important for the provision of ecosystem services. The Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, USA, are a hotspot for conservation management and the Mescalero Apache Tribe's homeland. The multiple ecosystem services and functions and its high vulnerability to changes in climate conditions make their forests of ecological, cultural, and social importance. We used data from the Mescalero Apache Tribal Lands (MATL) Continuous Forest Inventory over 30 yr to analyze changes in the structure and composition of ecosystems as well as trends in ecosystem services. Many provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services were shared among the MATL ecosystems and were tied to foundational species dominance, which could serve as a reliable indicator of ecosystem functioning. Our analysis indicates that the MATL are in an ongoing transition from conifer forests to woodlands with declines in two foundation species, quaking aspen and ponderosa pine, linked to past forest management and changing climate. In addition, we detected a decrease in species richness and tree size variability, amplifying the risk of forest loss in a rapid climatic change. Continuous permanent plots located on a dense grid (1 × 1 km) such as the ones monitored by the Bureau of Indian Affairs are the most detailed data available to estimate forests multiresource transitions over time. Native lands across the USA could serve as the leading edge of detecting decadal-scale forest changes and tracking climate impacts.