Vulnerability of eastern US tree species to climate change

Brendan M. Rogers, Patrick Jantz, Scott J. Goetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Climate change is expected to alter the distribution of tree species because of critical environmental tolerances related to growth, mortality, reproduction, disturbances, and biotic interactions. How this is realized in 21st century remains uncertain, in large part due to limitations on plant migration and the impacts of landscape fragmentation. Understanding these changes is of particular concern for forest management, which requires information at an appropriately fine spatial resolution. Here we provide a framework and application for tree species vulnerability to climate change in the eastern United States that accounts for influential drivers of future distributions. We used species distribution models to project changes in habitat suitability at 800 m for 40 tree species that vary in physiology, range, and environmental niche. We then developed layers of adaptive capacity based on migration potential, forest fragmentation, and propagule pressure. These were combined into metrics of vulnerability, including an overall index and spatially explicit categories designed to inform management. Despite overall favorable changes in suitability, the majority of species and the landscape were considered vulnerable to climate change. Vulnerability was significantly exacerbated by projections of pests and pathogens for some species. Northern and high-elevation species tended to be the most vulnerable. There were, however, some notable areas of particular resilience, including most of West Virginia. Our approach combines some of the most important considerations for species vulnerability in a straightforward framework, and can be used as a tool for managers to prioritize species, areas, and actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3302-3320
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • biodiversity
  • dispersal
  • distribution model
  • forecast
  • fragmentation
  • management
  • migration
  • pests and pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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