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Tracking climate change and assisted migration for native plants

Date: April 16, 2015

Helping plants move in response to changes in climate


Background

Some native plant species, such as western larch (Larix occidentalis), will be unable to adapt or migrate fast enough to track projected climate changes (photo by Mary Williams).
Some native plant species, such as western larch (Larix occidentalis), will be unable to adapt or migrate fast enough to track projected climate changes (photo by Mary Williams).
With the current rate of climate change, many landscapes in the United States will have climates that are incompatible with current vegetation by the end of the century. One adaptation strategy at the nexus of native plant transfer guidelines and climate change is assisted migration, also known as managed relocation, defined as the intentional movement of plants in response to climate change. Although researchers propose frameworks and guidelines on how to apply assisted migration of native plants, there is no consensus on implementation in the U.S. because of ecological and economic concerns and lack of supporting data.

Key Findings

To identify knowledge gaps and provide a central foundation for collaboration, researchers compiled a literary database about native plant transfer guidelines, climate change, and assisted migration. The database connects all pieces of information from peer-review journal articles to decision-support tools.

This database can help inform scientists, land managers, and university students about climate change and assisted migration through presentations and publications that cover the historical, biological, social, legal, and ethical aspects of assisted migration.

Illustration of assisted population migration, range expansion, and species migration (from Williams and Dumroese 2013).
Illustration of assisted population migration, range expansion, and species migration (from Williams and Dumroese 2013).

Featured Publications

Stanturf, John A. ; Palik, Brian J. ; Dumroese, Kasten , 2014
Williams, Mary I. ; Dumroese, Kasten , 2014
Williams, Mary I. ; Dumroese, Kasten , 2013


Principal Investigators: 
Forest Service Partners: 
National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources
Rocky Mountain Research Station
External Partners: 
Mary Williams, Michigan Technological University
Dr Martin F Jurgensen, Michigan Technological University