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Combining US and Canadian forest inventories to assess habitat suitability and migration potential of 25 tree species under climate change

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Diversity and Distributions


Aim: To evaluate current and future dynamics of 25 tree species spanning United States and Canada. Location: United States and Canada. Methods: We combine, for the first time, the species compositions from relative importance derived from the USA’s Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) with gridded estimates based on Canada's National Forest Inventory (NFI-kNN))-based photo plot data to evaluate future habitats and colonization potentials for 25 tree species. Using 21 climatic variables under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, we model climatic habitat suitability (HQ) within a consensus-based multimodel ensemble regression approach. A migration model is used to assess colonization likelihoods (CL) for ~100 years and combined with HQ to evaluate the various combinations of HQ + CL outcomes for the 25 species. Results: At a continental scale, many species in the conterminous United States lose suitable climatic habitat (especially under RCP 8.5) while Canada and USA's Alaska gain climate habitat. For most species, even under optimistic migration rates, only a small portion of overall future suitable habitat is projected to be naturally colonized in ~100 years, although considerable variation exists among species. Main conclusions: For the species examined here, habitat losses were primarily experienced along southern range limits, while habitat gains were associated with northern range limits (especially under RCP 8.5). However, for many species, southern range limits are projected to remain relatively intact, albeit with reduced habitat quality. Our models predict that only a small portion of the climatic habitat generated by climate change will be colonized naturally by the end of the current century—even with optimistic tree migration rates. However, considerable variation among species points to the need for significant management efforts, including assisted migration, for economic or ecological reasons. Our work highlights the need to employ range-wide data, evaluate colonization potentials and enhance cross-border collaborations.


colonization likelihood; Forest Inventory Analysis; habitat suitability; long-distance migration; multimodel ensemble; National Forest Inventory; random forest; range-wide analysis; stochastic gradient boosting


Prasad, Anantha; Pedlar, John; Peters, Matt; McKenney, Dan; Iverson, Louis; Matthews, Steve; Adams, Bryce. 2020. Combining US and Canadian forest inventories to assess habitat suitability and migration potential of 25 tree species under climate change. Diversity and Distributions. 26(9): 1142-1159.

Last updated on: August 21, 2020