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Central Hardwoods Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment

How are forests vulnerable to climate change?

Forests and ecosystems in the Central Hardwoods region will be affected directly and indirectly by a changing climate over the next 100 years. Understanding the potential impacts is an important first step to sustaining healthy forests in the face of changing conditions.

This assessment evaluates the vulnerability of terrestrial ecosystems in the Central Hardwoods Region of Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri to a range of future climates. Information on current forest conditions, observed climate trends, projected climate changes, and impacts to forest ecosystems was considered in order to assess vulnerability to climate change.

Major findings

  • Mesic upland forests were determined to be the most vulnerable to projected changes in climate, whereas many systems adapted to fire and drought, such as open woodlands, savannas, and glades, were perceived as less vulnerable.
  • Projected changes in climate and the associated ecosystem impacts and vulnerabilities will have important implications for economically valuable timber species, forest-dependent wildlife and plants, recreation, and long-range planning.

Download the assessment

Central Hardwoods ecosystem vulnerability assessment and synthesis: a report from the Central Hardwoods Climate Change Response Framework project (2014) https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/45430

More on the assessment

  • Uses new scientific projections of future changes in climate, such as differences in seasonal temperature and precipitation
  • Combines results from a variety of new scientific research that examines how forest ecosystems may respond to changes in climate, disturbance, and management
  • Relies on local expertise from scientists and forest managers to synthesize the results and identify key vulnerabilities within forest ecosystems
  • Describes the implications that future changes will have on a wide variety of ecological, social, and economic factors

Projections for individual tree species (external links)

The region's forests will be affected by a changing climate during this century, but individual tree species will respond uniquely to climate change, depending on their particular silvics and ecological tolerances. These handouts summarize general climate change projections for tree species across several large landscapes based on future projections from the USDA Forest Service Climate Change Tree Atlas and LANDIS models (featured in the vulnerability assessment). The general trends derived from these models can be combined with local knowledge and management experience to judge risk on a particular site.

 

Information provided by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science's Climate Change Response Framework. Learn more about this resource and find more at www.forestadaptation.org