Northern Forest Futures Project

Projecting Future Conditions: What will forests be like in the future?

[image:] Two people looking into a crystal ball to predict future forest conditions.

The future condition of northern forests will depend on many variables.  It is impossible to consider every possible future, and so NFFP efforts focus on developing projections from a set of possible future scenarios. Projecting future forest composition and structure under a range of scenarios provides a better basis for judging whether management plans are reasonable and sustainable.

[image:] Bar chart shows results of three scenariosThe Scenarios

Scenarios represent a range of assumptions about climate change, economic activity, and population growth, which produce differing future forest conditions. Projections are being made for three different scenarios:  Scenario A1B, Scenario, A2 and Scenario B2.

Specifically, the scenarios assume the following future trends:

[image:] bulleted itemA1B:  high economic growth, moderate population growth

[image:] bulleted itemA2:  moderate economic growth, high population growth

[image:] bulleted itemB2:  low economic growth, low population growth

For each scenario, forecasts of land uses and forest conditions for the region are completed at a fine spatial resolution covering a 50-year time span.


Projections are still being developed for each of 20 states under each of the three scenarios.  The resulting forecasts will describe:

  • Expected forest area
  • Volume of trees removed (for both softwoods and hardwoods)
  • Biomass (live trees, growing stock, sawtimber)
  • Forest type group (Set of tree species that commonly occur together)

The forecasts create an inventory of future forest conditions, similar to the current Forest Inventory and Analysis data.

The NFFP team will use these projected future forest conditions together with other analyses to gauge the challenges and opportunities for forest resource sustainability in the coming decades. Expected products from this analysis include:

  • An assessment of future forest conditions and trends for the 20 Northern States, paralleling the current sustainability assessment found in The Forests of the Northern United States
  • A on-line database of future forest conditions with associated mapping capability
  • An interactive web display of future forest conditions

[image:] Graph shows sample forest area results.

Sample forest area results

How It Works

The Northern Forest Futures Project projection system uses a complex of data sources and models to project future forest conditions.