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Detecting Evidence of Climate Change in the Forests of the Eastern United States

August 22, 2008

Changes in land use or disturbances such as defoliation by insects, disease, or fire all affect the composition and amount of tree canopy in a forest. These changes are easy to detect. Noticing and understanding the complex ways that global or regional-scale climate change combines with these disturbances to affect forest growth patterns and succession is difficult. This is particularly true for regions where changes in climate are not the most extreme, such as the mid-latitude forests of the Eastern United States. If land and water resources are to be managed responsibly, it is important to know how well the impacts of climate change on these forests can be measured in order to provide the best information possible to respond to any future changes. The goal of this study is to test whether climate-induced changes in forests in the Eastern United States can be detected and characterized using satellite imagery.

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