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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Climate change and our nation’s forests: the Forest Sector Report of the 4th National Climate Assessment

Drought-stricken forest
A five-year drought in California (2011–2016) led to western pine beetle outbreaks, which contributed to the mortality of 129 million trees. As a result, the structure and function of these forests are changing rapidly. Prolonged droughts are expected to become more common as the climate continues to warm, increasing stress on lower-elevation tree species. (Forest Service photo by Marc Meyer)


It is very likely that more frequent extreme weather events will increase the frequency and magnitude of severe ecological disturbances, driving rapid and often persistent changes in forest structure and function across large landscapes. It is also very likely that climate change will decrease the ability of many forest ecosystems to provide important ecosystem services to society. Forest management activities that increase the resilience of U.S. forests to climate change are being implemented, with a broad range of adaptation options for different resources, including applications in planning.


Forests on public and private lands are part of our natural heritage and provide economic benefits and ecosystem services to people in the U.S. and globally.

The ability of forests to continue providing goods and services is threatened by climate change and associated increases in extreme events and disturbances. Broad-scale disturbances (over thousands to hundreds of thousands of acres) that cause rapid change (over days to years) and more gradual climate change effects (over decades) will alter the ability of forests to provide ecosystem services, although alterations will vary greatly depending on the tree species and local biophysical conditions.

Implementation of climate-informed resource planning and management on forest lands has progressed significantly over the past decade. The ability of society and resource managers to continue to adapt to climate change will be determined primarily by socioeconomic factors and organizational capacity.

A viable forest-based workforce can facilitate timely actions that minimize negative effects of climate change. Ensuring the continuing health of forest ecosystems and, where desired and feasible, keeping forestland in forest cover are key challenges for society.

Principal Investigator
James M. Vose, Project Leader
4855 - Center for Integrated Forest Science
Strategic Program Area
Water, Air, and Soil
Research Partners
Rocky Mountain Research Station
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest Research Station
Northern Research Station
External Partners
Duke University
University of Vermont
Northern Arizona University
University of Washington
University of Virginia