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Threats to North American forests from southern pine beetle with warming winters

Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 713717 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

In coming decades, warmer winters are likely to ease range constraints on many cold-limited forest insects1,2,3,4,5. Recent unprecedented expansion of the southern pine beetle (SPB, Dendroctonus frontalis) into New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in concert with warming annual temperature minima highlights the risk that this insect pest poses to the pine forests of the northern United States and Canada under continued climate change6. Here we present projections of northward expansion in SPB-suitable climates using a statistical bioclimatic range modelling approach and current-generation general circulation model output under Representative Concentration Pathways 4.5 and 8.5. Results show that by the middle of the twenty-first century, the climate is likely to be suitable for SPB expansion into vast areas of previously unaffected forests throughout the northeastern United States and into southeastern Canada. This scenario would pose a significant economic and ecological risk to the affected regions, including disruption of local ecosystem services7, shifts in forest structure8, and threats to native biodiversity9.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. US Department of Interior Northeast Climate Science Center provided funding for this research along with support from the National Science Foundation grant DGE-11-44155.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • Corey Lesk
    •  & Radley Horton
  2. Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • Ethan Coffel
  3. Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05495, USA

    • Anthony W. D’Amato
  4. USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, Durham, New Hampshire 03824, USA

    • Kevin Dodds
  5. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • Radley Horton

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Contributions

C.L. and E.C. conceived and coordinated this research and performed modelling and analysis. A.W.D. and K.D. contributed data and methods. All authors discussed the results and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Corey Lesk.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3375

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