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According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there may be significant regional transitions associated with shifts in forest location and composition in the U.S. due to climate change.  Climate change is likely to alter the geographic distribution of North American forests, including regionally important tree species.

The effects of climate change on forests depend not only on climatic factors but also on stress from pollution, trends in forest management practices, and land-use change.  Climate change effects in turn alter timber production, outdoor recreational activities, water quality, wildlife and rates of carbon storage.

Forests are generally sensitive to climatic variability and change.  Climatic factors that influence forest health such as temperature, rainfall, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, and fire are changing due to human activities.

Changes in temperature and precipitation are expected to change forest location, composition, and productivity.  Climate change results in changes in the geographic distribution of forest types and new combinations of species within forests.  Moreover, climate change effects that influence tree growth will also alter rates of carbon storage in trees and soils.  In 2007 the IPCC  noted that “net carbon uptake by terrestrial ecosystems is likely to peak before mid-century and then weaken or even reverse, thus amplifying climate change.”

Changes in forest disturbance regimes, such as fire or disease also affect the future of US forests.  Increased temperatures increase fire risk in areas that become drier due to climate change.  Climate change also promotes the rapid increase of diseases and pests attacking tree species.

Inside Forests