Climatic Change

, Volume 117, Issue 1–2, pp 289–303 | Cite as

Tracking suitable habitat for tree populations under climate change in western North America

  • Laura K. GrayEmail author
  • Andreas Hamann


An important criticism of bioclimate envelope models is that many wide-ranging species consist of locally adapted populations that may all lag behind their optimal climate habitat under climate change, and thus should be modeled separately. Here, we apply a bioclimate envelope model that tracks habitat of individual populations to estimate adaptational lags for 15 wide-ranging forest tree species in western North America. An ensemble classifier modeling approach (RandomForest) was used to spatially project the climate space of tree populations under observed climate trends (1970s to 2000s) and multi-model projections for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. We find that, on average, populations already lag behind their optimal climate niche by approximately 130 km in latitude, or 60 m in elevation. For the 2020s we expect an average lag of approximately 310 km in latitude or 140 m in elevation, with the most pronounced geographic lags in the Rocky Mountains and the boreal forest. We show that our results could in principle be applied to guide assisted migration of planting stock in reforestation programs using a general formula where 100 km north shift is equivalent to approximately 44 m upward shift in elevation. However, additional non-climatic factors should be considered when matching reforestation stock to suitable planting environments.


Western Hemlock Climate Niche Grow Season Precipitation Classification Tree Analysis Seed Transfer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



For provision of databases and help with data preparation we thank Todd Schroeder from the United States Forest Service, and Deogratias Rweyongeza, Leonard Bernhardt and Ken Greenway from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. In addition, we thank Xianli Wang and David Roberts for help with data preparation and analysis. Funding was provided by NSERC/Industry Collaborative Development Grant CRDPJ 349100-06. We thank Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, Alberta Forest Research Institute, Ainsworth Engineered Canada LP, Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd., Western Boreal Aspen Corporation, and Weyerhaeuser Company Ltd. for their financial and in-kind support.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Renewable ResourcesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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