Towards an improved understanding of the ecological and economic consequences of climate change for Indiana forests


o Forests provide myriad ecosystem services, many of which are vital to local and regional economies. Consequently, there is a need to better understand how predicted changes in climate will impact forests dynamics and the consequences of such changes for society as a whole. Here we focus on the impacts of climate change on Indiana forests, which are representative of many secondary growth broadleaved forests in the greater Midwest region in terms of their land use history and current composition. We find that predicted changes in climate for the state – warmer and wetter winters/springs and hotter and potentially drier summers – will dramatically shape forest communities, resulting in new assemblages of trees and wildlife that differ from biotic communities of the past or present. Overall, suitable habitat is expected to decline for between 17-29 percent of trees and increase for between 43-52 percent of tree species in the state, depending on the region and climate prediction scenario. Such changes have important consequences for wildlife that depend on certain tree species or have ranges with strong sensitivities to climate. Additionally, such changes will have potential economic impacts on Indiana industries that depend on forests resources and products (both timber and non-timber). Finally, we offer some practical suggestions on how management may minimize the extent of these impacts, and highlight a case study from a large tree planting initiative currently underway in the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area.


Indiana, climate change, species shift, Tree Atlas, forest composition, forest ecosystem services

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This article is currently under review. For additional information or questions, please contact Melissa Widhalm at mwidhalm@purdue.edu.

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