Future of the Forest


As the climate changes, how will the forest change? In the western United States, will we see a return to grasslands and chaparral? In the Northeast, where will the sugar maple tree find the right conditions for optimal sap production? How will farmers need to adapt their practices to optimize syrup production in the future? As you complete this last set of labs in the module, keep in mind the many paths we can take to mitigate climate change and to help our forests adapt to our changing climate.

In this Lab, you'll view interactive graphics that show the predicted climatic conditions for the next 40 to 70 years under a variety of models and emissions scenarios. You will then review the optimal growing climate for the sugar maple and consider the impacts of climate change on the distribution of this species of tree. You will extend this question to other plants as you examine changes in plant hardiness zones from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Finally, you will choose a tree species of interest and, using the U.S. Forest Service's Tree Atlas and other resources, you will propose suitable trees for your neighborhood or school yard.

After completing this Lab, you should be able to:
  • describe how the climate has changed in the recent past (since 1950) and how it is predicted to change in the future; and
  • describe how tree (and plant) species distributions have changed in the past and are predicted to change in response to changing climate.

Keeping Track of What You Learn

In these pages, you'll find three kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you focused on key concepts. They allow you to check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills. These questions require you to pull some concepts together or apply your knowledge in a new situation.
  • Discuss questions are intended to get you talking with your neighbor. These questions require you to pull some concepts together or apply your knowledge in a new situation. There is no right answer to these questions; just something to ponder.
Your teacher will let you know which questions you should answer and turn in.