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Tackling unresolved questions in forest ecology: the past and future role of simulation models
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  • Isabelle Marechaux,
  • Fanny Langerwisch,
  • Andreas Huth,
  • Harald Bugmann,
  • Xavier Morin,
  • Christopher Reyer,
  • Rupert Seidl,
  • Alessio CollaltiOrcid,
  • Mateus Dantas de Paula,
  • Rico Fischer,
  • Martin Gutsch,
  • Manfred. J Lexer,
  • Heike Lischke,
  • anja.rammig,
  • Edna Rödig,
  • Boris Sakschewski,
  • Franziska Taubert,
  • Kirsten Thonicke,
  • Giorgio Vacchiano,
  • Friedrich Bohn
Isabelle Marechaux
AMAP, Univ Montpellier, INRA, IRD, CIRAD, CNRS
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Fanny Langerwisch
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague
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Andreas Huth
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
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Harald Bugmann
ETH Zürich
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Xavier Morin
CEFE, CNRS, Univ Montpellier, Univ Paul Valéry Montpellier, IRD, EPHE
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Christopher Reyer
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Member of the Leibniz Association
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Rupert Seidl
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
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Alessio Collalti
Orcid
National Research Council of Italy (CNR-ISAFOM)
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Mateus Dantas de Paula
SBiK-F - Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
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Rico Fischer
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
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Martin Gutsch
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Member of the Leibniz Association
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Manfred. J Lexer
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
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Heike Lischke
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
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anja.rammig
Technical University of Munich
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Edna Rödig
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
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Boris Sakschewski
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Member of the Leibniz Association Potsdam, DE
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Franziska Taubert
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
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Kirsten Thonicke
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Member of the Leibniz Association Potsdam, DE
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Giorgio Vacchiano
Universita degli Studi di Milano
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Friedrich Bohn
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
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Abstract

Understanding the processes that shape forest functioning, structure and diversity remains challenging, although an increasing amount of data documents forest systems across scales. Forest models have a long history in assimilating various data and ecological knowledge and can simulate forest dynamics over spatio-temporal scales unreachable by most empirical investigations. Here we describe the trajectories of development different forest modelling communities have followed to demonstrate the leverage that computer models offer for advancing the understanding of forest ecosystems. Using three widely applied but contrasting forest modelling approaches - species distribution models, individual-based models and dynamic global vegetation models - as examples, we show how scientific and technical advances have led models beyond their initial objectives and limitations. We provide an overview of recent model applications on current important ecological topics and pinpoint ten key questions that could, and should, be tackled with forest models in the next decade. This shows that forest models, due to their long history of assimilating empirical knowledge, their iterative and continuous development, and their complementarity, represent an invaluable toolkit to address a wide range of theoretical and applied ecological questions, hence fostering a deeper understanding of forest dynamics, particularly in the context of global change.