How are forests vulnerable to climate change?
Forests and ecosystems in the Central Appalachians 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 forest ecosystems in the Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest-Coniferous Forest-Meadow and Eastern Broadleaf Forest Provinces of Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland for a range of future climates. Information on current forest conditions, observed climate trends, projected climate changes, and impacts on forest ecosystems was considered by a multidisciplinary panel of scientists, land managers, and academics in order to assess ecosystem vulnerability to climate change.
- Appalachian (hemlock)/northern hardwood forests, large stream floodplain and riparian forests, small stream riparian forests, and spruce/fir forests were determined to be the most vulnerable. Dry/mesic oak forests and dry oak and oak/pine forests and woodlands were determined to be least vulnerable. –
- Projected changes in climate and the associated impacts and vulnerabilities will have important implications for economically valuable timber species, forest-dependent wildlife and plants, recreation, and long-term natural resource planning.
Download the assessment
Central Appalachians forest ecosystem vulnerability assessment and synthesis: a report from the Central Appalachians Climate Change Response Framework project (2015) https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/47885
Video presentation summarizing the vulnerability assessment (external link) https://forestadaptation.org/Apps_video
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