Skip to main content

The Trees That Will Start to Vanish Because of Climate Change

Modern forests in the eastern United States bear little resemblance to the forests that stood at the end of the last Ice Age. Starting with European colonial settlers and marching through four centuries of development, drought, and fire, the tree cover of North America became fragmented.

The map below shows the present-day distribution of forested land in the United States. Dark green areas are more densely forested than light green areas. The total amount of forested land today is about 70 percent of what it was in 1630. Eastern U.S. forests are composed of a wide array of species. Some are common, like the red maple and American beech. Others are important food or habitat resources, such as black cherry and eastern hemlock. But what will happen to these trees if atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise?

Total tree canopy cover

Jantz and WHRC colleague Brendan Rogers have been examining the state of forest cover in the Appalachian region of the United States, while also modeling what the future will look like. They have been working in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania and New Jersey), Shenandoah National Park (Virginia), and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee).

Jantz and Rogers used the output from a large number of climate models to simulate future climate conditions, assuming that carbon dioxide emissions would continue to follow the current trend—rising from 400 parts per million to 1370 parts per million by 2100. The climate models showed that warming would accelerate in all three parks. The average increase is about 0.7 to 0.8 °F (about 0.4 °C) per decade until 2040, after which warming will speed up to about 1.2 °F (0.7 °C) per decade.

Along with rising temperatures, the parks of Appalachia should see fewer days of frost, which affects the length of the growing season. Precipitation is expected to increase somewhat, but also become more variable. The combination of small precipitation increases, higher maximum temperatures in the summertime, and a lengthened growing season means the frequency of drought could increase.

By combining these climate projections with information about topography and soil moisture and composition, Jantz and Rogers are exploring how the suitability of habitats may change for 40 eastern tree species. Their modeled projections are based in part on field observations collected by the U.S. Forest Service. Rogers and Jantz are combining all of this information into a comprehensive vulnerability assessment, aimed at land managers, that is designed to facilitate planning and decision making.

It turns out that sugar maple and eastern hemlock, which Jantz calls “iconic species of eastern U.S. forests,” are expected to lose habitat. Lower elevations and southern latitudes will no longer provide the cool, wet habitats preferred by these species. Other species, however, would do quite well. Blackjack oak and black hickory are expected to gain habitat in areas that become warmer and drier. High-elevation species, like red spruce and balsam fir, may effectively be pushed off the mountains. The chart above shows which species in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park are expected to gain suitable habitat (greens and blues) and which are expected to lose it (browns, yellows, and reds).

The Trees That Will Start to Vanish Because of Climate Change

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Popular posts from this blog

Find cities with similar climate

This map has been created using The Global environmental stratification. The Global environmental stratification (GEnS), based on statistical clustering of bioclimate data (WorldClim). GEnS, consists of 125 strata, which have been aggregated into 18 global environmental zones (labeled A to R) based on the dendrogram. Interactive map >> Via Related posts: -  Find cities with similar climate 2050 -  How global warming will impact 6000+ cities around the world?

Moose population in North America

The moose ( Alces alces ) is the largest member of the deer family, characterized by its massive size, long legs, and distinctive broad, palmate antlers found in males. They have a dark brown or black coat and a humped shoulder. Moose are primarily found in the boreal and mixed deciduous forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are solitary animals, often found near bodies of water, and are herbivores that feed on leaves, bark, twigs, and aquatic vegetation. Despite their size, moose are strong swimmers and can run up to 35 miles per hour. The moose population in North America is shrinking swiftly. This decrease has been correlated to the opening of roadways and landscapes into this animal's north range.   In North America, the moose range includes almost all of Canada and Alaska, the northern part of New England and New York, the upper Rocky Mountains, northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Isle Royale.    In 2014-2015, the North American moo

Map of Fox Species Distribution

Foxes are small to medium-sized members of the Canidae family, which also includes wolves, dogs, and other related animals. There are about 37 species of foxes distributed around the world, and they inhabit a wide range of environments, from forests and grasslands to deserts and urban areas. Below is the map of fox species distribution  created by Reddit user isaacSW Here are some of the most well-known fox species and their distribution: Red Fox ( Vulpes vulpes ): The red fox is one of the most widely distributed fox species and is found in North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of North Africa. They are adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas. Arctic Fox ( Vulpes lagopus ): The Arctic fox is found in the Arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. They have adaptations that help them survive in cold climates, such as a thick coat that changes color with the seasons. Gray Fox ( Urocyon cinereoargenteus ): The gray fox