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Climate Research

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CR 11:39-49 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/cr011039

Potential effects of climate change on U.S. forests: a review

Steven M. Winnett*

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Ecosystem Protection, Boston, Massachusetts 02203, USA

ABSTRACT: Human-induced changes in climate are likely to affect U.S. domestic forests and the economic systems which rely on them. This paper reviews current knowledge of how changes in temperature and precipitation could affect tree species, forest ecosystems, and the forest products sector of the economy. The various types of models used to predict change and the results they calculate are examined. Models currently project both increases and decreases in the range of various species and ecosystems, and similar results for changes in the productivity, biomass and growth of forests in response to changes in climate. Results vary with the models used, the species or ecosystem studied, and the specific condition of the forest in question. The science of forests and global change is reviewed with regard to plant responses to enhanced CO2 environments and forests' response to other bioclimatic and indirect factors, such as insect predation, fire, climatic variation and ozone. Three studies of the economic effects of climate change on forests, which project a range of losses and benefits to the economy, are compared. Economic results vary directly with the results of the forest growth and productivity models which were employed as inputs. No one model can provide a complete answer, and current knowledge and models are limited in various ways which point to areas where further research could provide benefits.

KEY WORDS: Impacts · Responses · Modeling · Economic · Physiological · Bioclimatic · Ecotype · Tree species

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