The United States Global Change Research Program projects major climate changes over time for the Great Lakes and Midwestern regions of the United States. These projections include increasing temperatures and extreme rainfall events with more frequent periods of drought during the summer months.
As the climate changes, the habitat for tree species in the northern part of their range may become unsuitable for survival and could be replaced by species from more southern regions. Species that require cool moist conditions will be challenged by increasing temperatures and warming, drier summers.
So what does that mean for people who want to plant a tree? Today, when we plant trees we must consider not only the planting site conditions such as soil type, soil volume, moisture availability, and available sunlight, we must now also consider the fact that temperature and moisture availability may be changing over the next few decades. The tree that we are planting has the potential to live in a future where its ideal growing conditions are no longer recognizable.
Some tree species are more adaptable than others. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has compiled a tree adaptability atlas that establishes an adaptability rating and projected future growth range for two different modeling scenarios based on emissions.
Here are some examples of tree species based on adaptability:
- Highly adaptable: Red maple (Acer rubrum), Northern red oak (Quercus rubra), Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
- Moderately adaptable: American beech (Fagus grandifolia), Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra), most of the hickory (Carya) species.
- Low adaptability: Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), Black cherry (Prunus serotina), Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
The adaptability atlas that the USFS has created should be viewed as one of the many factors that guide tree planting decisions for now and the future.