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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

New Publication: Future Forest Composition Under a Changing Climate and Adaptive Forest Management in Southeastern Vermont

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The uncertainty around future impacts of global environmental change on forests has led to a heightened focus on developing alternative management approaches to sustain critical ecosystems. Coauthored by NE CASC PI Anthony D'Amato, this article uses a spatially explicit forest landscape simulation model, LANDIS-II, to examine and evaluate a range of long-term effects of current and adaptive forest management under three projected climate scenarios within a southeastern Vermont forest. It finds that land-use legacies and the inertia associated with long-term forest successional trajectories are likely to be the dominant driver of future forest composition and density for the next 100 years.  Nevertheless, climate is projected to have a greater influence on forest composition and density over the next 200 years. Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and red spruce (Picea rubens) are likely to experience reductions in density and a compression of relative dominance on the landscape. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) are projected to persist within the landscape and are likely to continue to occupy a prominent  position in the forests of this region. Extreme climate warming under RCP 8.5 projections resulted in compositional shifts and reductions in density at the end of the 200 year simulation when compared to RCP 4.5 and current climate projections. These findings highlight the expected lag effects of a changing climate, which present significant challenges and opportunities as managers seek to sustain critical ecosystem services in the region.

Key takeaways include: 

  • Forest composition is likely to shift in the Northeastern U.S. over the next 200 years.
  • Sugar maple and American beech will likely remain dominant in the study area.
  • Eastern hemlock and red spruce likely to experience reductions in relative biomass.
  • Successional dynamics are projected to drive forest composition over the next century.
  • Projected climate change will influence forest composition over the next two centuries.
  • Managers may need to increase application of adaptive strategies.

Read the Article >>