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Identifying Climate-Smart Native Plants to Support Ecosystem Resilience in the Northeast

Project Leader:
Research Partners:
New Hampshire
New York
Rhode Island
New Jersey
West Virginia
+11 more


Plant species are at risk under climate change because their slow dispersal rates limit their ability to shift their spatial distribution in response to rapidly changing conditions. Conservation managers seek to maintain resilient plant communities by planting more native species that are adapted to future climates. However, managers rarely have enough information about which native species are best adapted to climate change within their management areas. 

This project will provide conservation managers with site-specific lists of climate-adapted plant species. The project team will identify “climate-smart species” by using a new spatial dataset of species composition information from thousands of plant communities combined with species distribution modeling. The modeling approach predicts the composition of entire plant communities as a function of site conditions, climate, and information relating to species’ ability to adapt to climate change (e.g., species traits and evolutionary history). Applying this novel modeling approach will provide robust predictions of species distributions and abundances under climate change, and allow the project team to generate climate-smart species lists. 

This project will provide a critical scientific foundation for habitat restoration and conservation practices to support climate change resilience. Conservation managers from federal, state, and non-governmental organizations will help the project team identify priority sites for generating climate-smart species lists, and to refine scientific outcomes to ensure they are actionable. Additional project outcomes include a web tool for managers to identify climate-smart species lists at any site in the Northeast.