Climate change in the Missouri central hardwood region: consequences for forest landscapes, and management strategies
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Climate change may result in a change in the tree species present within forests. The Missouri Central Hardwood Region represents one area where these changes may occur. Due to the natural diversity of species and economic value of this area, it is beneficial to understand how climate change might affect trees currently present. Computer models (a human creation to help understand real world systems in a simplified manner) can be used to study the impact of climate change on forests. My objectives were to 1) understand how different forest impact models studying climate change compared to each other, 2) determine whether climate change or current timber harvest practices was more likely to change the characteristics of the forest, and 3) analyze land management alternatives to determine which was best at creating beneficial qualities for forests under climate change. For my first objective, I used a species distribution model and a process model, two models that use different analysis approaches, to assess climate change impacts on tree species, and compared the results. On a broad level, both models agreed, but when looking at the study area at smaller resolution, the models did not agree as well. For my second objective, I coupled a process model and forest landscape model. Although results showed there was variation based on species regarding whether climate or harvest had the greater impact, both usually had significant impacts on tree species. Results for my third objective indicated that multiple management approaches are necessary to manage future forests in a beneficial manner. My results have implications for future forest sustainability. Uncertainty exists regarding climate change's full impact, but with proper forest management and research these challenges can be reduced.