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November 16, 2022

Northeast CASC-supported researchers are exploring the feasibility of restoring ecologically significant species, like American chestnut, and whether this approach can be included in broader climate adaptation frameworks.

Species’ ranges are projected to change in response to warming temperatures and changing precipitation levels. Although some tree species are expected to be well-adapted to future conditions, they may not be able to expand their ranges quickly enough to support these future ecosystems. Assisted migration or transplanting these species manually into a new habitat range may help accelerate their adaptation, especially for keystone species. 

In an article in Forest Ecology and Management, a team of Northeast CASC-supported scientists describe how several northern hardwood trees responded to assisted migration, including the American chestnut. Extirpated from much of its range by blight, the researchers found that the American chestnut was a keystone species, or a species that is highly influential within its habitat, in northeastern forests that could possibly thrive with future assisted migration. They reported that the American chestnut showed strong survival and growth rates, even out-competing other comparable assisted migration candidate species. This manager-scientist co-developed study highlights the potential to incorporate species restoration into climate adaptation frameworks that may support diverse and resilient future ecosystems. 

This work is supported by the Northeast CASC project, “Effects of climate, disturbance, and management on the growth and dynamics of temperate and sub-boreal forest ecosystems within the Lake States and New England”. 

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