Chicago, Illinois

Short Summary

The urban forest of the Chicago Wilderness region, a 7-million-acre area covering portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, will face direct and indirect impacts from a changing climate over the 21st century. Most of the natural areas in the Chicago Wilderness region have been lost to urbanization and suburban sprawl, while remaining natural areas are fragmented and a fraction of their original size. Understanding key climate impacts and the vulnerability of urban trees in natural and developed landscapes is critical for forest management and ensuring that urban forests will continue to provide benefits to the people who live in urban communities.

Tree Species Vulnerability

Species distribution modeling suggests that the changing climate will shift suitable habitat and heat and hardiness zones for various tree species in the Chicago Wilderness region. Species distribution modeling for native species suggests that suitable habitat may decrease for 11 primarily northern species and increase or become newly suitable for 40 species. An analysis of tree species vulnerability that combines model projections, shifts in hardiness and heat zones, and adaptive capacity showed that 15 percent of the trees currently present in the region have either moderate-high or high vulnerability to climate change, and many of those trees with low vulnerability are invasive species. In the tree species list identified for Chicago, 9 species have a low adaptability score, 16 species have a medium adaptability score, and 25 species have a high adaptability score. Climate change vulnerability of urban trees, including adaptive capacity and zone suitability under low and high emissions scenarios, is outlined in the tree species handout below.

Chicago Street Trees
Chicago, Illinois

Climate Change Impacts

Over the past century, the Chicago Wilderness region has warmed by about 1°F on average and has had a significant increase in precipitation, especially during the summer. Key climate impacts to trees in the region projected over the next century include increased drought and heat stress, increased stormwater runoff and flooding, increases in wind damage, and increases in tree pests and pathogens. The Chicago Wilderness Region Urban Forest Vulnerability Assessment and Synthesis summarizes the potential impacts of climate change on urban forests.

Read the vulnerability assessment

Explore Climate Impacts

Work With Us

To learn more about this project, contact Leslie.