Climate change is dramatically altering the distribution, population connectivity and adaptive variation of conifer trees across the western United States, including large range shifts, reorganization of tree communities, die-offs, and decreases in productivity. Rocky Mountain Research Station scientist Samuel Cushman is leading a large interdisciplinary team to combine vast sampling of tree distribution, microclimate, and genetics information with sophisticated spatial modeling of gene flow, connectivity, and adaptive variation.
The project has provided several important tools and applications to managers, including spatially explicit, fine-scale, broad-extent, quantitative predictions of changes in species distribution, adaptive variation and population connectivity for several conifer species across the full extent of the western United States. The project is now applying these discoveries and tools to predict:
This research will benefit society by providing detailed and specific predictions of the effects of climate change on U.S. forests. Such predictions can inform the development of optimized adaptation strategies to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on forest ecosystems.