Climatic Change

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 231-243

First online:

Development of risk matrices for evaluating climatic change responses of forested habitats

  • Louis R. IversonAffiliated withNorthern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service Email author 
  • , Stephen N. MatthewsAffiliated withNorthern Research Station, U.S. Forest ServiceTerrestrial Wildlife Ecology Lab, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University
  • , Anantha M. PrasadAffiliated withNorthern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service
  • , Matthew P. PetersAffiliated withNorthern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service
  • , Gary YoheAffiliated withWesleyan University

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We present an approach to assess and compare risk from climate change among multiple species through a risk matrix, in which managers can quickly prioritize for species that need to have strategies developed, evaluated further, or watched. We base the matrix upon earlier work towards the National Climate Assessment for potential damage to infrastructures from climate change. Risk is defined here as the product of the likelihood of an event occurring and the consequences or impact of that event. In the context of species habitats, the likelihood component is related to the potential changes in suitable habitat modeled at various times during this century. Consequences are related to the adaptability of the species to cope with the changes, especially the increasing intensity and/or frequency of disturbance events that are projected. We derived consequence scores from nine biological and 12 disturbance characteristics that were pulled from literature for each species. All data were generated from an atlas of climate change for 134 trees of the eastern United States (www.​nrs.​fs.​fed.​us/​atlas). We show examples which depict a wide range of risk for tree species of northern Wisconsin, including species that may gain substantial habitat as well as lose substantial habitat, both of which will require the development of strategies to help the ecosystems adapt to such changes.