Assessing and comparing risk to climate changes among forested locations: implications for ecosystem services

Abstract

Forests provide key ecosystem services (ES) and the extent to which the ES are realized varies spatially, with forest composition and cultural context, and in breadth, depending on the dominant tree species inhabiting an area. We address the question of how climate change may impact ES within the temperate and diverse forests of the eastern United States. We quantify the vulnerability to changes in forest habitat by 2100, based on the overall pressures of community change from an aggregation of current and potential future habitats for 134 tree species at each of 149 US Department of Defense installations. To do so, we derive an index, Forest-Related Index of Climate Vulnerability, composed of several indicators of vulnerability for each site. Further, a risk matrix (likelihood × consequences) provides a visual cue to compare vulnerabilities among species (example from Pennsylvania) or among sites [example for Acer saccharum (sugar maple) in Vermont vs. Kentucky]. Potential changes in specific ES can then be qualitatively examined. For example in Pennsylvania, the loss of the provisioning services (wood products) of Prunus serotina (black cherry) and Fraxinus americana (white ash) habitat projected for the future will not likely be compensated for by concomitant increases in Juniperus virginiana (redcedar) and Pinus echinata (shortleaf pine) habitat. Taken together, this approach provides a conceptual framework that allows for consideration of how potential changes in tree species habitats, as impacted by climate change, can be combined to explore relative changes in important ES that forests provide.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to the Northern Research Station, the Northern Global Change Program, and the Northern Institute for Applied Climate Science of the US Forest Service for support for this work. Further, this work was supported by the US Army’s Environmental Quality Technology Applied and Advanced Research Program (Elizabeth Ferguson, Technical Director). Additional support was provided by The National Science Foundation (DEB-Ecosystem Studies 0948780). We thank Mark Ford and Eric Britzke for providing valuable comment to an earlier draft and to the reviewers and editors responsible for improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Stephen N. Matthews.

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Matthews, S.N., Iverson, L.R., Peters, M.P. et al. Assessing and comparing risk to climate changes among forested locations: implications for ecosystem services. Landscape Ecol 29, 213–228 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-013-9965-y

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Ecosystem services
  • Trees
  • Eastern United States
  • Forest composition
  • Prediction