An integrated assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on Indiana forests

Abstract

Forests provide myriad ecosystem services, many of which are vital to local and regional economies. Consequently, there is a need to better understand how predicted changes in climate will impact forest dynamics and the implications of such changes for society as a whole. Here we focus on the impacts of climate change on Indiana forests, which are representative of many secondary growth broadleaved forests in the greater Midwest region in terms of their land use history and current composition. We found that predicted changes in climate for the state—warmer and wetter winters/springs and hotter and potentially drier summers—will dramatically shape forest communities, resulting in new assemblages of trees and wildlife that differ from forest communities of the past or present. Overall, suitable habitat is expected to decline for 17–29% of tree species and increase for 43–52% of tree species in the state, depending on the region and climate scenario. Such changes have important consequences for wildlife that depend on certain tree species or have ranges with strong sensitivities to climate. Additionally, these changes will have potential economic impacts on Indiana industries that depend on forest resources and products (both timber and non-timber). Finally, we offer some practical suggestions on how management may minimize the extent of climate-induced ecological impacts and highlight a case study from a tree planting initiative currently underway in the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area.

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Acknowledgements

We thank guest editor Jeff Dukes and two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback on the manuscript. We also thank Stephen Shifley and many stakeholders for reviewing and commenting on earlier versions. We are indebted to several other members of the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, including Matthew Peters, Anantha Prasad, and Steven Matthews, for their assistance in preparing data for this project.

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Correspondence to Songlin Fei.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment” edited by Jeffrey Dukes, Melissa Widhalm, Daniel Vimont, and Linda Prokopy.

Richard P. Phillips and Leslie Brandt contributed equally to this work.

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Phillips, R.P., Brandt, L., Polly, P.D. et al. An integrated assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on Indiana forests. Climatic Change 163, 1917–1931 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2326-8

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