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Potential redistribution of tree species habitat under five climate change scenarios in the eastern US

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Forest Ecology and Management. 155: 205-222.


Global climate change could have profound effects on the Earth's biota, including large redistributions of tree species and forest types. We used DISTRIB, a deterministic regression tree analysis model, to examine environmental drivers related to current forest-species distributions and then model potential suitable habitat under five climate change scenarios associated with a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Potential shifts in suitable habitat for 76 common tree species in the eastern US were evaluated based on more than 100,000 plots and 33 environmental variables related to climate, soils, land use, and elevation. Regression tree analysis was used to devise prediction rules from current species-environment relationships. These rules were used to replicate the current distribution and predict the potential suitable habitat for more than 2100 counties east of the 100th meridian. The calculation of an importance value-weighted area score, averaged across the five climate scenarios, allowed comparison among species for their overall potential to be affected by climate change. When this score was averaged across all five climate scenarios, 34 tree species were projected to expand by at least 10%, while 31 species could decrease by at least 10%. Several species (Populus tremuloides, P. grandidentata, Acer saccharum, Betula papyrifera, Thuja occidentalis) could have their suitable habitat extirpated from US. Depending on the scenario, the optimum latitude of suitable habitat moved north more than 20 km for 38-47 species, including 8-27 species more than 200 km or into Canada. Although the five scenarios were in general agreement with respect to the overall tendencies in potential future suitable habitat, significant variations occurred in the amount of potential movement in many of the species. The five scenarios were ranked for their severity on potential tree habitat changes. Actual species redistributions, within the suitable habitat modeled here, will be controlled by migration rates through fragmented landscapes, as well as human manipulations.


climate change; Eastern US; tree species migration; regression tree analysis


Iverson, Louis R.; Prasad, Anantha M. 2002. Potential redistribution of tree species habitat under five climate change scenarios in the eastern US. Forest Ecology and Management. 155: 205-222.

Last updated on: May 18, 2007