Climatic Change

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 65-90

First online:

Assessing impacts of climate change on forests: The state of biological modeling

  • Virginia H. DaleAffiliated withEnvironmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • , H. Michael RauscherAffiliated withSoutheastern Forest Experiment Station, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

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Models that address the impacts of climate change on forests are reviewed at four levels of biological organization: global, regional or landscape, community, and tree. The models are compared for their ability to assess changes in fluxes of biogenic greenhouse gases, land use, patterns of forest type or species composition, forest resource productivity, forest health, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat. No one model can address all of these impacts, but landscape transition models and regional vegetation and land-use models have been used to consider more impacts than the other models. The development of landscape vegetation dynamics models of functional groups is suggested as a means to integrate the theory of both landscape ecology and individual tree responses to climate change. Risk assessment methodologies can be adapted to deal with the impacts of climate change at various spatial and temporal scales. Four areas of research needing additional effort are identified: (1) linking socioeconomic and ecologic models; (2) interfacing forest models at different scales; (3) obtaining data on susceptibility of trees and forest to changes in climate and disturbance regimes; and (4) relating information from different scales.