Beginning in 2011, a team of ecologists and research scientists led by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/niacs/climate/) assessed ecosystem vulnerability for nine natural community types in the Central Hardwoods portion of Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. Observed trends in climate over the historical record reveal that precipitation increased in the area, and that daily maximum temperatures decreased while minimum temperatures increased. Climate trends projected for the next 100 years by using downscaled global climate model data indicate a potential increase in mean annual temperature of 2 to 7 °F for this region. Projections for precipitation show an increase in winter and spring precipitation; summer and fall precipitation projections differ by model. Potential impacts on forests were identified by incorporating these climate projections into three forest impact models (Tree Atlas, LINKAGES, and LANDIS PRO) that also were able to integrate other factors such as wildfire, invasive species, and diseases. The assessment was conducted through a formal elicitation process of 20 science and management experts from across the region, who considered vulnerability in terms of potential impacts on a system and the adaptive capacity of the system. Mesic upland forests were determined to be the most vulnerable, whereas many systems adapted to fire and drought, such as open woodlands, savannas, and glades, were perceived as less vulnerable to projected changes in climate. (NAISC)
Beginning in 2015, we worked with a team led by Dr. Tom Bonnot, University of Missouri, and staff of the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO) to develop a decision-support framework that integrated dynamic-landscape metapopulation models (DLMPs) and structured decision making (SDM). This framework allowed our team to choose among scenarios for habitat restoration that best met desired endpoints for focal wildlife species in the GCPO’s Ozark Highlands region under climate change and urbanization. Through the framework, the Ozark Highlands team determined objectives, designed alternative scenarios, and used DLMPs to model the consequences of each given concurrent impacts of climate and landscape change. Overall impact of restoration on focal species was positive and presented evidence to support landscape conservation design. Despite the general effectiveness of restoration, species-specific responses to individual scenarios varied in complex ways through interactions with landscape change processes such as urbanization and climate change and the demographic processes affecting each species (See Dynamic Landscapes PDF) and Developing a Decision-Support Process for Landscape Conservation Design. The planning team identified a scenario that targeted full acreage objectives on both private and protected lands, prioritized based on future landscapes as best for reducing the average risk across species. Yet while habitat under climate change isn’t predicted to negatively impact priority bird species in the Central Hardwoods, the direct effects of warming on bird physiology and demography could be the biggest threat (See Climate Change Impacts on Acadian Flycatcher PDF).