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Climatic Change

, Volume 146, Issue 1–2, pp 103–116 | Cite as

Vulnerability of forests of the Midwest and Northeast United States to climate change

  • Chris Swanston
  • Leslie A. Brandt
  • Maria K. Janowiak
  • Stephen D. Handler
  • Patricia Butler-Leopold
  • Louis Iverson
  • Frank R. Thompson III
  • Todd A. Ontl
  • P. Danielle Shannon
Article

Abstract

Forests of the Midwest and Northeast significantly define the character, culture, and economy of this large region but face an uncertain future as the climate continues to change. Forests vary widely across the region, and vulnerabilities are strongly influenced by regional differences in climate impacts and adaptive capacity. Not all forests are vulnerable; longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures will increase suitable habitat and biomass for many temperate species. Upland systems dominated by oak species generally have low vulnerability due to greater tolerance of hot and dry conditions, and some oak, hickory, and pine species are expected to become more competitive under hotter and physiologically drier conditions. However, changes in precipitation patterns, disturbance regimes, soil moisture, pest and disease outbreaks, and nonnative invasive species are expected to contribute forest vulnerability across the region. Northern, boreal, and montane forests have the greatest assessed vulnerability as many of their dominant tree species are projected to decline under warmer conditions. Coastal forests have high vulnerability, as sea level rise along the Atlantic coast increases damage from inundation, greater coastal erosion, flooding, and saltwater intrusion. Considering these potential forest vulnerabilities and opportunities is a critical step in making climate-informed decisions in long-term conservation planning.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for insightful and constructive comments on the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Northern Research Station and Eastern Region.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Swanston
    • 1
    • 2
  • Leslie A. Brandt
    • 3
  • Maria K. Janowiak
    • 2
  • Stephen D. Handler
    • 2
  • Patricia Butler-Leopold
    • 4
  • Louis Iverson
    • 5
  • Frank R. Thompson III
    • 6
  • Todd A. Ontl
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. Danielle Shannon
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.USDA Northern Forests Climate HubHoughtonUSA
  2. 2.Northern Institute of Applied Climate ScienceUSDA Forest ServiceHoughtonUSA
  3. 3.Northern Institute of Applied Climate ScienceUSDA Forest ServiceSt PaulUSA
  4. 4.Northern Institute of Applied Climate ScienceMichigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA
  5. 5.Northern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceDelawareUSA
  6. 6.Northern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceColumbiaUSA

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