Climate Science

July 2021

The only thing constant is change, and climate change is change on a global scale. The Northern Research Station’s July web features include a scientist who has dedicated his career to studying impacts of climate change on tree species habitats, the research underpinning the newest edition of the Climate Change Tree Atlas, and a partnership providing wildlife managers with a tool to inform decision making for wildlife and habitat management in the face of climate change.

Environmental Education

Cover image of Southeast Forests and Climate Change module.Project Learning Tree’s Southeastern Forests and Climate Change module for secondary students includes activities built on Northern Research Station science. Download the whole module for free.

Featured Scientist

Anantha Prasad

Anantha PrasadHow does one go from working as an Aeronautical Engineer at a company that manufactures jet fighters in India to a career as a research ecologist in Delaware, Ohio? Northern Research Station (NRS) scientist Anantha Prasad knows the answer to that question because he lived it. Prasad has been with the Forest Service since 1993 and he is a key member of a team that produces the Climate Change Tree Atlas, now in its fourth update, which models and maps habitat changes and migration potential due to climate change for over 120 tree species in the Eastern United States.

On his academic journey, Prasad earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in Bengaluru, India, then came to the United States., where he earned a master’s degree in Environmental Science at Miami University. An internship at the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory was later followed by a job as Research Associate at the University of Illinois and the Illinois Natural History Survey, Urbana-Champaign, working for Louis Iverson, now an Emeritus Scientist with the NRS.

“I followed Louis Iverson to the Forest Service and both of us worked on producing the first version of the Climate Change Tree Atlas in the late 1990s, which modelled and mapped habitat changes due to climate change for 80 tree species in the Eastern U.S.” said Prasad. 

Today Prasad is part of the Landscape Change Research Group with Iverson (now retired) and Matt Peters of the NRS and Stephen Matthews (shared between NRS and the Ohio State University). The team continues to work on modelling the impact of climate change and other disturbances on tree species habitats and migration and helps the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) develop better adaptive management tools.

“The most fulfilling aspect of my work is that I am doing research that will help improve management of our precious forest resources in the face of climate change. And, equally important is working with a team of dedicated people who understand the importance of forest health and doing their best to make a difference,” Prasad said.

More about Anantha Prasad >>

Featured Product

Climate Change Tree Atlas 4.0

Screenshot of Climate Change Tree Atlas 4.0.For 20 years, the Climate Change Tree Atlas has been helping foresters and other land managers navigate the murky waters of potential future conditions. This year, the team of Northern Research Station scientists that created the Climate Change Tree Atlas completed a significant overhaul of a tool that offers insight into possible future scenarios for habitat suitability for 125 eastern tree species.

The Atlas uses data collected by the Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program on 3.9 million trees from more than 85,000 inventory plots in the Eastern United States and combines models for species distribution, migration, and tree species traits. The information allows users to explore a range of potential conditions for individual species, as well as how regional trends can be impacted by changing climate.

Also new to this version of the Atlas are place-based summaries of current tree species ranked in order of importance, potential tree species shifts within the area, and species to consider for planting in national forests, national parks, urban areas, and ecoregions across the Eastern United States.

“The Climate Change Atlas is built to give forest managers the longest view possible of potential future habitat conditions, how species may respond to these changes, and offers information related to traits that can help or hinder adapting in the future,” said Matthew Peters, an ecologist with the Northern Research Station and one of the architects of the Climate Change Atlas. “For this iteration, we put more work into developing resources that will make using the Atlas less complicated and more efficient for managers by providing summaries for more regions that many users have expressed interest in.”
In addition to Peters, the Atlas team includes scientists Louis Iverson (now retired), Anantha Prasad, and Stephen Matthews with web development assistance from Jim Lootens-White, a natural resource specialist with the Station’s Communications and Science Delivery unit.

Visit the Climate Change Tree Atlas >>

Featured Partnership

Wildlife Adaptation Menu

Wildlife managers working together on a climate adaptation project idea at a workshop organized in Michigan.

Wildlife professionals need to know about species habitat requirements to manage effectively. But what happens when habitats change? And how might changes in available resources, such as food, water, and cover impact wildlife populations?

We are living in a time of unprecedented change. Climate change is already creating shifts in precipitation patterns and increases in temperatures. And these changes are only projected to increase. Wildlife managers are faced with the growing challenge of helping wildlife populations respond to changing conditions.  

Stephen Handler, climate change specialist with the Northern Research Station and Northern Institute for Applied Climate Science, and Olivia LeDee, Acting Director of the Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center with the US Geological Survey have recently teamed up to offer wildlife managers a tool to make decisions on how best to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat to ensure species are able to adapt to changing conditions and thrive into the future.

Along with partners with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Handler and LeDee are collaborating on a Wildlife Adaptation Menu that is designed to provide actionable information to support climate-informed decision making for wildlife and habitat management. “Climate adaptation science often offers broad, theoretical concepts that can be difficult to apply,” said Handler. “The Wildlife Adaptation Menu translates these concepts into actionable strategies and approaches for wildlife at a scale and resolution that can inform on-the-ground management.”

Developed in close collaboration between researchers and wildlife managers, there are 13 general strategies and 80 associated approaches in the menu, thus offering a broad range of potential adaptation actions. “This is not a one-size-fits-all strategy,” said LeDee. “Rather, we are excited to offer a tool to help wildlife managers make their own informed choices and make a clear rationale for climate adaptation.”

Handler and LeDee hope to continue to work in partnership with wildlife professionals and to see the Wildlife Adaptation Menu serve as a tool to support climate-informed management.

More information >>

Last updated: 06/30/2021