Modeling potential climate change impacts on the trees of the northeastern United States

  • Louis IversonEmail author
  • Anantha Prasad
  • Stephen Matthews
Original Article


We evaluated 134 tree species from the eastern United States for potential response to several scenarios of climate change, and summarized those responses for nine northeastern United States. We modeled and mapped each species individually and show current and potential future distributions for two emission scenarios (A1fi [higher emission] and B1 [lower emission]) and three climate models: the Parallel Climate, the Hadley CM3, and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory model. Climate change could have large impacts on suitable habitat for tree species in this region, especially under a high emissions trajectory. Results indicate that while species with potentially increasing areas of suitable habitat in the Northeastern US substantially outnumber those with decreasing areas of habitat, there are key species that show diminishing habitat area: balsam fir (Abies balsamea), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), red spruce (Picea rubens), bigtooth and quaking aspen (Populus grandidentata and P. tremuloides), and black cherry (Prunus serotina). From these results we identified the top 10 losers and gainers for each US state in the region by scenario and emissions trajectory. By combining individual species importance maps and developing assembly rules for various classes, we created maps of potential forest types for the Northeast showing a general loss of the spruce–fir zone with advancing oak–hickory type. Further data, maps, and analysis can be found at


Climate change Tree species distributions Composition changes Species shifts Random forests Parallel climate model (PCM) Hadley GFDL CO2 emissions Northeastern United States 



Thanks to the Northern Global Change Program, US Forest Service for the financial support over several years, and to the Forest Inventory and Analysis units of the US Forest Service for the forest data. The authors thank Matthew Peters for the substantial assistance in preparing the data in this paper, Katharine Hayhoe for providing the climate-scenario data, and Erika Spanger-Siegfried and the Union of Concerned Scientists synthesis team for the helpful comments on improving the manuscript. Special thanks are due to Jerry Mellilo, David Foster, Linda Joyce, and an unidentified reviewer for their helpful suggestions, and to Marty Jones, Tom Lambert, Cameron Wake, and Mary Boda for the final edits.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis Iverson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anantha Prasad
    • 1
  • Stephen Matthews
    • 1
  1. 1.Northern Research Station, USDA Forest ServiceDelawareUSA

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