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Hot Topics: Forests and Climate Change

An informational guide on forests and climate change .

Why this is important?

Forests are an important cog in the earth’s climate and protecting forests is a key strategy in the fight against climate change. They reduce greenhouse gases by sequestering carbon. Forests are also cooler and wetter than deforested areas and their effect on reducing wind speeds also keeps temperatures lower. Deforestation and degradation increases carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and leads to hotter and drier conditions both on the local and continental scales.

Climate change also has significant effects on the forests around us. Changing precipitation patterns can stress trees affecting tree health making them more susceptible to pests and pathogens. Drought conditions can contribute to increased forest fires. The tree species we are familiar with in our forests may change as increasing temperatures cause trees to migrate farther north or to higher elevations.

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Forests on public and private lands provide benefits to the natural environment, as well as economic benefits and ecosystem services (for example, water, fiber and wood products, fish and wildlife habitat, biodiversity, recreational opportunities, spiritual renewal, and carbon storage) to people in the United States and globally.

Climate Change Effects on Ecosystem Services

Forests Flow Chart

Note: From "Forests," by Vose, J.M., D.L. Peterson, G.M. Domke, C.J. Fettig, L.A. Joyce, R.E. Keane, C.H. Luce, J.P. Prestemon, L.E. Band, J.S. Clark, N.E. Cooley, A. D’Amato, and J.E. Halofsky, in Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (Eds), Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II (p.237). (doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH6) 2018 by U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA.

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