Effect of Climate Change on Spruce-fir Ecosystems

Friday, May 6, 2016
Montane Spruce-Fir Ecosystem. Photo: D’Amato

Montane Spruce-Fir Ecosystem. Photo: D’Amato

Final Report now available: Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Spruce-Fir Forest Ecosystems and Associated Priority Bird Populations
PI: Tony D’Amato, University of Vermont

Spruce-fir forests and associated bird species are recognized as some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and species to the impacts of climate change. Researchers supported by the Northeast Climate Science Center capitalized on a rich suite of long-term data from these ecosystems to document recent trends in these forests and their associated bird species, and developed tools for predicting their future abundance under climate change. Findings from this work indicate declining trends in the abundance of spruce-fir obligate birds, including Bicknell’s Thrush, across the lake states and New England. In contrast, spruce-fir forests in the White and Green Mountains of New England exhibited patterns of increasing abundance, potentially due to their recovery from the negative impacts of historic land use and pollution. Despite these recent trends, long-term predictions of future abundance for the dominant species found in spruce-fir forests (black, red, and white spruce and balsam fir) indicated large declines in these species from across much of the northeastern United States by the year 2090. Several areas were recognized where these forests might persist, including high elevation portions of New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont and in large portions of northwestern Maine. Results help increase our understanding of system dynamics under future climate change, and are critical for informing and prioritizing conservation and protection efforts targeting inherent bird and wildlife species.


“There is relatively little observational evidence of bird responses to change in forest condition and climate in the region. The work done to map forest species composition and understand changes in elevational movement… provides valuable insights to forest change in the region related to both forest recovery from past disturbance and response to climate change.” - Maria Janowiak, U.S. Forest Service Scientist


The final report for “Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Spruce-Fir Forest Ecosystems and Associated Priority Bird Populations” is now available on the NE CSC website.

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