Threats of Climate Change

Threats of Climate Change

Spruce-fir forests on Mount Monadnock, might be vulnerable in a warming climate.

As climate changes occurs, local ecology across the Northeast will be threatened by different temperature regimes, weather patterns, and other conditions. A recent report of The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) predicts that forest communities will change along with climate trends. As the temperatures rise and growing conditions transform, plant and animal communities are expected to move northward in search of suitable habitat, and more southern species will move in to take their places. The report predicts that new combinations of plant species might assemble based on the environmental conditions. On Mount Monadnock, for example, the cold-loving red spruce might disappear from the mountain. In addition, red oak, which is more dominant below 2000 feet, may increase in dominance higher up the mountain.

Changes in climate will also influence the spread of forest pests, pathogens, and invasive species. The hemlock wooly adelgid, an invasive insect that can decimate eastern hemlock forests, is currently spreading northward. It is kept at bay by cold winter temperatures, but warming trends might allow it to reach forests as far north as Canada.

As a result of climate change, NECIA lists northern plant communities, such as spruce-fir forests, at risk. This forest type covers much of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York and provides for the paper and pulp industry. It also harbors wildlife such as the snowshoe hare and the Canada lynx. The high-elevation spruce-fir forest found on Monadnock and other mountains provides nesting habitat for the Bicknell’s thrush, a neotropical migrant. What’s more, the increased carbon dioxide that causes warming may promote faster growth and greater demands on soil nutrients, further altering local ecology. In these ways, the compounding effects of climate change will influence the ecology, economy, and recreation associated with Northeastern forests.