Changes in forest habitat classes under alternative climate and land-use change scenarios in the northeast and midwest, USA

Brian G Tavernia, Mark D Nelson, Michael E Goerndt, Brian F Walters, Chris Toney


Large-scale and long-term habitat management plans are needed to maintain the diversity of habitat classes required by wildlife species. Planning efforts would benefit from assessments of potential climate and land-use change effects on habitats. We assessed climate and land-use driven changes in areas of closed- and open-canopy forest across the Northeast and Midwest by 2060. Our assessments were made using projections based on A1B and A2 future scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Presently, forest land covers 70.2 million ha and is evenly divided between closed- and open-canopy habitats. Projections indicated that total forest land would decrease by 3.8 or 4.5 million ha for A2 and A1B, respectively. Within persisting forest land, the balance between closed- and open-canopy habitats depended on assumed harvest rates of woody biomass. Standard harvest rates led to closed-canopy habitat attaining a slight majority of total forest land area. Intensive harvest rates resulted in the majority of forest land being in open-canopy habitat for A1B or maintained the even split between closed- and open-canopy habitats for A2. Ultimately, managers need to identify benchmark habitat conditions informed by historical conditions and wildlife population dynamics and plan to meet these benchmarks in dynamic forest landscapes.


Wildlife Habitat; Bioenergy; Biomass Harvest; Climate Change; Young Forest; Early Successional Habitat; FIA; Forest Projections

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© 2008 Mathematical and Computational Forestry & Natural-Resource Sciences