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Changing Climate, Changing Forests

Photo of Changing Climate, Changing Forests: The Impacts of Climate Change on Forests of Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. Forest ServiceChanging Climate, Changing Forests: The Impacts of Climate Change on Forests of Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Effects of climate change on forests of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada

Principal Investigators(s) :
Rustad, Lindsey 
Research Location : Northeastern United States
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 35


The climate of Northeastern North America has changed markedly during the past 100 years and computer models for the region forecast more change to come. Policymakers, land managers, citizens, and scientists must grapple with what this change means for the future of the region and its forests. Forest Service scientists and a large nationwide team analyzed the extensive literature on the potential effects of climate change on northeastern forest ecosystems and provided a concise scientific overview to inform natural resource management and policy decisions. They found that the evidence is now irrefutable that the climate of the Northeastern United States and eastern Canada has changed in the past century and greater change is projected in the future.

These changes have had, and will continue to have, dramatic effects on northeastern forests. Projections include shifts in suitable habitat for forest tree species, with significant declines in the amount of suitable habitat for spruce-fir forests, and an expansion in areas that are suitable for oak-dominated forests; changes in forest productivity, with possible gains from extended growing seasons, carbon dioxide and nitrogen fertilization, offsetting losses that are associated with atmospheric deposition of pollutants, forest fragmentation, and forests pests and pathogens; changes in the distribution and abundance of wildlife species through changes in habitat, food availability, thermal tolerances, and susceptibility to parasites and disease; alterations in forest water and nutrient cycling; and expansions in the range and virulence of pests, pathogens, and invasive species.

With the accumulating evidence that the climate is changing and a deepening upderstanding of the potential effects of those changes, forest stewardship efforts would benefit from integrating climate mitigation and adaptation options into conservation and management plans.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Purdue University, U.S. Geological Survey, Harvard Forest, University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology, Wellesley College, and 40 additional contributors and co-authors