As the climate warms, some tree species may no longer thrive in areas where they once flourished.
“A tree species may have a threshold in terms of the amount of heat it can tolerate, the amount of drought it can tolerate,” says Maria Janowiak of the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. “For instance, a northern conifer species that is adapted to cold conditions, it may not be able to persist or be competitive in a hotter climate.”
Her colleagues in the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station developed a free online tool called the Climate Change Tree Atlas.*
It provides information about the environmental needs of more than 100 tree species in the eastern U.S.
And it identifies where those conditions will be found in the future under different global warming scenarios.
“And so we can get a sense of how that ideal or suitable habitat for a particular tree species may shift in the future,” she says.
Janowiak says this online resource can help people select which species to use for tree planting and forest restoration projects — so the trees that are planted now are more likely to survive and thrive in a warmer future.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media
*Editor’s note: This story was updated March 10, 2023, to clarify which group created the Tree Atlas.