, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 271-282

On predicting the response of forests in eastern North America to future climatic change

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Abstract

Our ability to accurately predict the response of forests in eastern North America to future climatic change is limited by our knowledge of how different tree species respond to climate. When the climatic response of eastern hemlock is modeled across its range, we find that the assumed climatic response used in simulation models is not sufficient to explain how this species is presently responding to climate. This is also the case for red spruce growing in the northern Appalachian Mountains. Consequently, simulations of future change to forests that include eastern hemlock and red spruce may need to be improved. We suspect that similar findings will be made when other tree species are studied in detail using tree-ring analysis. If so, our present understanding of how individual tree species respond to climate may not be adequate for accurately predicting future changes to these forests. Tree-ring analysis can increase our understanding of how climate affects tree growth in eastern North America and, hence, provide the knowledge necessary to produce more accurate predictions.