Changes in Forested Landscapes of the Northeastern U.S. Under Alternative Climate Scenarios
Forests in the Eastern United States are in the early- and mid-successional stages recovering from historical land use. Succession, harvest, and climate are potentially important factors affecting forest composition and structure in the region. The goal of this project was to predict the distribution and abundance of dominant tree species across portions of the Eastern U.S. under alternative climate scenarios from present to the end of the century. We used the forest landscape change LANDIS PRO and hybrid empirical-physiological ecosystem model LINKAGES to model changes in forest biomass and species abundances and distribution in the North Atlantic region of the U.S. while accounting for climate change, succession, and harvest. Three climate scenarios were considered, defined by a general circulation model and emission scenario: PCM B1, CGCM A2, and GFDL A1FI. We then compared results from three alternative modeling approaches; LANDIS PRO, LINKAGES, and TreeAtlas for the Central Hardwood, Central Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions to determine agreement among models and establish a stronger inference for projected changes through model averaging. Tree Atlas is a statistically derived enhanced niche model in contrast to the process driven ecosystem and landscape models LINKAGES and LANDIS PRO. Researchers on this project actively worked with the Gulf Coast Plains and Ozarks LCC and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Change (NIACS). NIACS is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, and NGOs with a focus on climate change adaptation. This project provides assessments of landscape change and vulnerability of tree species to climate change, and will be used to guide climate adaptation planning and management across the region.