Forests of the Future: Invasive Species and Climate Change

Yes
Planning

The Greater Worcester Land Trust is considering how its current conservation actions can also create forests better adapted to changing climate conditions.

Although climate change will have dramatic effects on forests over the long term, many natural resource professionals are currently struggling with substantial and immediate challenges associated with invasive plant and insect species. For the Greater Worcester Land Trust, these issues are particularly salient. Many nonnative and invasive plant species have established in local forests, including Norway maple, garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, and black locust. Even more notable, the Asian longhorned beetle was found in 2008 in the Greater Worcester area, posing a tremendous threat to many hardwood trees that can host the beetle, including maple, birch, willow, poplar, and elm. Large -scale eradication efforts have taken place in the Greater Worcester area, which focus on removing all potential host trees surrounding areas that have been infested. The results of this treatment are stunning—in effect, instantly transforming maple-dominated northern hardwood forests to oak-hickory forests.

 

Climate Change and the Worcester Area

The Greater Worcester Land Trust is considering how its actions to address invasive plant and insect species in forest may also create forests better adapted to changing climate conditions. Many of the lands that the Greater Worcester Land Trust managers are already experiencing intense levels of stress related to invasive plant and insect species, and unfortunately, climate change is generally expected to amplify the current trends. For example, black locust is one species that is currently considered invasive in Massachusetts and is present in many locations surrounding Worcester. Because this species is native to forests in the central and southern Appalachians, it is expected to have increased habitat farther north as the climate changes—which could enhance its current spread and increase its abundance in more northern forests.

 

Adaptation Actions

Building on projections of future suitable habitat from the Climate Change Tree Atlas, staff at the Greater Worcester Land Trust are evaluating tree species that could become part of the future forest. In this process, the Tree Atlas provides information on which tree species are projected to have more suitable habitat in the future across southern New England. Greater Worcester staff then use their expertise to consider additional species traits and the local site conditions and management objectives associated with a particular project area. 

Contact: Maria Janowiak

Last Updated: July 2015