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Assessing Climate Change Risk to Eastern Forests Using Climate Change Tree Atlas Data

Climate change risk matrix capturing the likelihood and consequence of potential habitat change for sugar maple in northern Wisconsin. Forest ServiceSnapshot : New tool makes for better informed forest management decisions

Principal Investigators(s) :
Matthews, Stephen 
Research Location : Eastern United States
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 46


Forest Service scientists are using models of potential change of 134 tree species in the Eastern United States, along with their life history characteristics, to prepare risk matrices that capture the likelihood of change along with the adaptability of a species in relation to projected climate changes. The models also provide a visual guide that allows forest managers to quickly assess species for their relative urgency in developing management strategies

Every day, forest managers face a multitude of decisions that must be made based on imperfect knowledge of forests and other ecological systems, and the potential effects of climate change adds another dimension to these decisions. As climatic change increases its interaction, mostly negative, with other environmental factors, an urgency is increasing to integrate broad-scale climate modeling outputs with contemporary management decisions.

Forest Service scientists are addressing this need with the development of a data-driven approach to evaluating climate change risk among multiple species in which managers can prioritize the most, or least, sensitive forest species within their specific region of interest. This tool incorporates and synthesizes results for projected changes in habitat for 134 tree species and assesses a species potential to adapt to climate change based on their complexity of life history characteristics.

The two dimensions of the risk matrix capture likelihood and consequence of climate change effects for each species in a particular geographic area, and provide a visual guide to quickly assess species for their relative urgency in developing management strategies.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Ohio State University, Wesleyan University

Program Areas