Adapting oak management in an age of ongoing mesophication but warming climate.


Rising temperatures and variable precipitation events leading to droughts and floods will likely increase in frequency. We present climate models with bracketed scenarios of daily temperature and precipitation from 1980 to 2099 showing increasing heat and drought for much of the country throughout this century. We then model and map potential changes in suitable habitat for ∼130 tree species (10×10 km to 20×20 km) in the Eastern United States. Potential adaptability to changing climate was evaluated by literature assessment of biological and disturbance traits. Overall, trends show many species with shrinking habitat suitability but also several drought-tolerant species (especially oaks) with increased habitat. However, current oak regeneration is often poor - hence management assistance is needed to ensure an ongoing, thriving oak component. Long-term research in Ohio has shown that prescribed fire and thinning can provide a successful path for oak regeneration, depending on the moisture regime within the landscape. These data-informed models of oak regeneration highlight potential sites for oak regeneration across a 17-county region in southeastern Ohio. Silvicultural treatments promoting future increasers (e.g., oak) and finding refugia for decreasers can then be devised as a means to adapt to the changing climate.

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