Distributional changes in spruce-fir forests and forest-dependent wildlife: effects of climate variability and climate change
Spruce-fir forests reach their southern limit in New England and the Upper Midwest, and are predicted by coarse climate envelope models to be greatly reduced or extirpated by climate change in the next century. However, complex climatology, involving orographic effects and consequent changes in temperature and precip, along with substantial spatial variability, make it imperative that we understand where the most resilient stands are likely to be, and what the effects of these changes mean for spruce-fir associated species. In this project, we took advantage of long-term surveys at multiple locations across the region to relate wildlife dynamics (elevation distribution and reproductive success, population trends) to interannual variation and long-term change in climate, with the ultimate objective of coupling these relationships to climate models. We used long-term data to document US-range wide declines and distributional changes in spruce-fir dependent birds over much of the northeast and northcentral region. This allowed agencies to target efforts towards at-risk target species and habitats.