The Fourth National Climate Assessment was released November 23rd. It finds climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action. Decisions made today determine risk exposure for current and future generations and will either broaden or limit options to reduce the negative consequences of climate change. While Americans are responding in ways that can bolster resilience and improve livelihoods, neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.
Six of our NE CASC researchers contributed to the final report.
NE CASC Principle Investigator Anthony D’Amato
Large-scale disturbances that cause rapid change and more gradual climate change effects will alter the ability of forests to provide ecosystem services, although alterations will vary greatly depending on the tree species and local biophysical conditions. The ability of society and resource management to continue to adapt to climate change will be determined primarily by socioeconomic factors and organizational capacity. Ensuring the continuing health of forest ecosystems and, where desired and feasible, keeping forestland in forest cover are key challenges for society.
- Ontl, T. A., C. Swanston, L. A. Brandt, P. R. Butler, A. W. D'Amato, S. D. Handler, M. K. Janowiak, and P. D. Shannon, 2018: Adaptation pathways: Ecoregion and land ownership influences on climate adaptation decision-making in forest management. Climatic Change, 146 (1), 75–88. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1983-3
- Nagel, L. M., B. J. Palik, M. A. Battaglia, A. W. D'Amato, J. M. Guldin, C. W. Swanston, M. K. Janowiak, M. P. Powers, L. A. Joyce, C. I. Millar, D. L. Peterson, L. M. Ganio, C. Kirschbaum, and M. R. Roske, 2017: Adaptive silviculture for climate change: A national experiment in manager-scientist partnerships to apply an adaptation framework. Journal of Forestry, 115 (3), 167–178. doi:10.5849/jof.16-03
- Bottero, A., A. W. D'Amato, B. J. Palik, J. B. Bradford, S. Fraver, M. A. Battaglia, and L. A. Asherin, 2017: Density-dependent vulnerability of forest ecosystems to drought. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54 (6), 1605–1614. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12847
- Clark, J. S., L. Iverson, C. W. Woodall, C. D. Allen, D. M. Bell, D. C. Bragg, A. W. D'Amato, F. W. Davis, M. H. Hersh, I. Ibanez, S. T. Jackson, S. Matthews, N. Pederson, M. Peters, M. W. Schwartz, K. M. Waring, and N. E. Zimmermann, 2016: The impacts of increasing drought on forest dynamics, structure, and biodiversity in the United States. Global Change Biology, 22 (7), 2329–2352. doi:10.1111/gcb.13160
- Foster, J. R., and A. W. D'Amato, 2015: Montane forest ecotones moved downslope in northeastern USA in spite of warming between 1984 and 2011. Global Change Biology, 21 (12), 4497–4507. doi:10.1111/gcb.13046
- Pederson, N., A. W. D'Amato, J. M. Dyer, D. R. Foster, D. Goldblum, J. L. Hart, A. E. Hessl, L. R. Iverson, S. T. Jackson, D. Martin-Benito, B. C. McCarthy, R. W. McEwan, D. J. Mladenoff, A. J. Parker, B. Shuman, and J. W. Williams, 2015: Climate remains an important driver of post-European vegetation change in the eastern United States. Global Change Biology, 21 (6), 2105–2110. doi:10.1111/gcb.1277
- Woodall, C. W., B. F. Walters, J. W. Coulston, A. W. D'Amato, G. M. Domke, M. B. Russell, and P. A. Sowers, 2015: Monitoring network confirms land use change is a substantial component of the forest carbon sink in the eastern United States. Scientific Reports, 5, 17028. doi:10.1038/srep17028.
- Woodall, C. W., K. Zhu, J. A. Westfall, C. M. Oswalt, A. W. D'Amato, B. F. Walters, and H. E. Lintz, 2013: Assessing the stability of tree ranges and influence of disturbance in eastern US forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 291, 172–180. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2012.11.047
- D'Amato, A. W., J. B. Bradford, S. Fraver, and B. J. Palik, 2013: Effects of thinning on drought vulnerability and climate response in north temperate forest ecosystems. Ecological Applications, 23 (8), 1735–1742. doi:10.1890/13-0677.
Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity
NE CASC Research Ecologist Toni Lyn Morelli
NE CASC Science Coordinator Michelle Staudinger
Biodiversity—the variety of life on Earth—provides vital services that support and improve human health and wellbeing. Mounting evidence also demonstrates that climate change is increasingly compromising the ecosystem services that sustain human communities, economies, and wellbeing. Both human and natural systems respond to change, but their ability to respond and thrive under new conditions is determined by their adaptive capacity, which may be inadequate to keep pace with rapid change.
- A synthesis of thresholds for focal species along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: A review of research and applications
- Improving Conservation Outcomes with a New Paradigm for Understanding Species’ Fundamental and Realized Adaptive Capacity
- Open-File Report: Summarizing components of U.S. Department of the Interior vulnerability assessments to focus climate adaptation planning
- Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services: Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment
Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
NE CASC Principle Investigator Chris Caldwell
Indigenous peoples’ histories and shared experience engender distinct knowledge about climate change impacts and strategies for adaptation. Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge systems can play a role in advancing understanding of climate change and in developing more comprehensive climate adaptation strategies.
Climate impacts to lands, waters, foods, and other plant and animal species threaten cultural heritage sites and practices that sustain intra- and intergenerational relationships built on sharing traditional knowledges, food, and ceremonial or cultural objects. Challenges to Indigenous actions to address disaster management and recovery, displacement, and relocation in the face of climate change include economic, social, political, and legal considerations that severely constrain their abilities to respond to rapid ecological shifts and complicate action toward safe and self-determined futures for these communities.
The distinct seasonality of the Northeast’s climate supports a diverse natural landscape adapted to the extremes of cold, snowy winters and warm to hot, humid summers. The changing climate of the Northeast threatens the health and well-being of residents through environmental changes that lead to health-related impacts and costs, including additional deaths, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, higher risk of infectious diseases, lower quality of life, and increased costs associated with healthcare utilization.Maintaining functioning, sustainable communities in the face of climate change requires effective adaptation strategies that anticipate and buffer impacts, while also enabling communities to capitalize upon new opportunities. Although timely adaptation to climate-related impacts would help reduce threats to people’s health, safety, economic wellbeing, and ways of life, changes to those societal elements will not be avoided completely.
NE CASC Fellow Thomas Bonnot served as a review editor
In general, climate change will tend to amplify existing climate-related risks to people, ecosystems, and infrastructure in the Midwest. Direct effects of increased heat stress, flooding, drought, and late spring freezes on natural and managed ecosystems may be multiplied by changes in pests and disease prevalence, increased competition from non-native or opportunistic native species, ecosystem disturbances, land-use change, landscape fragmentation, atmospheric pollutants, and economic shocks such as crop failures or reduced yields due to extreme weather events.
These added stresses, when taken collectively, are projected to alter the ecosystem and socioeconomic patterns and processes in ways that most people in the region would consider detrimental. Much of the region’s fisheries, recreation, tourism, and commerce depend on the Great Lakes and expansive northern forests, which already face pollution and invasive species pressure that will be exacerbated by climate change.
Climate Science Special Report (CSSR)
NE CASC Principle Investigator Radley Horton served as lead author
As a key part of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) oversaw the production of this stand-alone report of the state of science relating to climate change and its physical impacts.
The Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) is designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States, to serve as the foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision-making about responses. In accordance with this purpose, it does not include an assessment of literature on climate change mitigation, adaptation, economic valuation, or societal responses, nor does it include policy recommendations.