Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 2129–2140 | Cite as

US exposure to multiple landscape stressors and climate change

  • Becky K. KernsEmail author
  • John B. Kim
  • Jeffrey D. Kline
  • Michelle A. Day
Original Article


We examined landscape exposure to wildfire potential, insects and disease risk, and urban and exurban development for the conterminous US (CONUS). Our analysis relied on spatial data used by federal agencies to evaluate these stressors nationally. We combined stressor data with a climate change exposure metric to identify when temperature is likely to depart from historical conditions and become “unprecedented.” We used a neighborhood analysis procedure based on key stressor thresholds within a geographic information system to examine the extent of landscape exposure to our set of individual and coinciding stressors. Our focus is on identifying large contiguous areas of stress exposure which would be of national concern to identify potential locations most vulnerable to resulting ecological and social disruption. The arrival of record-setting temperatures may be both rapid and widespread within the CONUS under RCP8.5. By 2060, 91 % of the CONUS could depart from the climate of the last century. While much of the CONUS may be impacted by at least one of the landscape stressors we examined, multiple coinciding stressors occurred for less than 9 % of the CONUS. The two most prevalent coinciding stressors were (1) wildfire potential combined with insects and disease risk, and (2) climate departure combined with urban and exurban development. Combined exposure to three or more stressors was rare, but we did identify several localized high-population areas that may be vulnerable to future change. Additional assessment and research for these areas may provide early and proactive approaches to mitigating multiple stressor exposure.


Environmental and ecological monitoring Vulnerability and risk assessment Stressors Forest health Wildfire Insects and disease Urban and exurban development 



Climate scenarios used were from the NEX-DCP30 dataset, prepared by the Climate Analytics Group and NASA Ames Research Center using the NASA Earth Exchange and distributed by the NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS). Funding for this research was provided in part by the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and the National Fire Plan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outsise the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Becky K. Kerns
    • 1
    Email author
  • John B. Kim
    • 1
  • Jeffrey D. Kline
    • 1
  • Michelle A. Day
    • 2
  1. 1.USDA Forest ServicePacific Northwest Research StationCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Forest Ecosystems and Society, College of ForestryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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