The effect of climate change on rural land cover patterns in the Central United States


This study projects land cover probabilities under climate change for corn (maize), soybeans, spring and winter wheat, winter wheat-soybean double cropping, cotton, grassland and forest across 16 central U.S. states at a high spatial resolution (see, while also taking into account the influence of soil characteristics and topography. The scenarios span three coupled climate models, three Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), and three time periods (2040, 2070, 2100). As climate change intensifies, the suitable area for all six crops display large northward shifts. Total suitable area within the study area for spring wheat, followed by corn and soybeans, diminish. Suitable area for winter wheat and for winter wheat-soybean double-cropping expand northward, while cotton suitability migrates to new, more northerly, locations. Grassland intensifies in the western Great Plains as crop suitability diminishes; suitability for forest intensifies in the south while yielding to crops in the north. To maintain current broad geographic patterns of land use, large changes in the thermal response of crops such as corn would be required. A transition from corn-soybean rotations to winter wheat-soybean doubling cropping is an alternative adaptation.

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Correspondence to Christopher Lant.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Online Resource 1

Available at Pangaea (, an atlas of scenario projections provides at 1 km resolution, for each of the eight land cover studied (corn, soybean, spring wheat, winter wheat, winter wheat-soybean double-cropping, cotton, grassland, forest) for each time period projected (2040, 2070, 2100), for each RCP (2.6, 4.5, 8.5), a map of land cover probabilities for the observed the IPSL, MRI, and NOR climate models compared to the historical model. The resource contains a total of 252 projection maps in PDF format. (ZIP 505681 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

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Supplementary Table 2

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Lant, C., Stoebner, T.J., Schoof, J.T. et al. The effect of climate change on rural land cover patterns in the Central United States. Climatic Change 138, 585–602 (2016).

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  • Climate change adaptation
  • Climatic downscaling
  • Land use land cover change
  • U.S. Midwest