UVM Forestry Professor Discusses New Study On Climate Change Impact On Northeast Forests

Feb 8, 2018

A new paper from scientists in the Northeast finds that tree species are increasingly stressed by the changing climate. The paper is titled  “New England and Northern New York Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment and Synthesis: A Report from the New England Climate Change Response Framework Project.” According to the report, habitat conditions for current species like the sugar maple, northern white cedar and balsam fir will deteriorate and those species will likely be replaced by those found south of New England such as black cherry, yellow poplar and hickory.  University of Vermont Associate Professor and Director of the Forestry Program at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources Tony D’Amato was the second author on the USDA paper.  He says the study is an expansion of similar work he was involved with while in Minnesota several years ago.

“I got involved with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science to really develop some assessments of how future climate change as well as future changes in invasive species might impact forests in that region and really use it as a way to develop a tool for forest managers, decision makers to be able to get a gauge for what’s the uncertainty we might about how the forests might change and what’s the vulnerability of those forests. So basically what might be the impacts of those projected changes.  And so with that being a real concern not just in the Lake States but across the Northeastern U.S. and other parts of the country when I moved to this region they were just beginning to get involved with similar processes here in both New England and Northern New York and so we were kind of logical partners to work on this and certainly it was also a broad group of scientists from across New England and New York that came together and really went through different forests and talked about what we viewed as both the threats to those forests in the future, not just from a climate standpoint but again factoring in things like the emerald ash borer and might that impact ash forests or the changes in the distribution of a given invasive species and then also evaluated is the given forest able to respond positively to those changes?  Will it actually maybe do better under warmer temperatures? Or are we concerned that there are very few species that might respond well to changing climate.  So would we write that maybe as a high vulnerability system that we might need pay special attention to both in our conservation and management efforts. And so really the goal with this work and the reason why I feel fortunate to be involved with this group is that they’re really trying to create what they call a Climate Change Response Framework that allows managers to have the information that they need to make decisions in a very uncertain and also its a stressful context as we think about the changes that are happening across the landscape.”