Observed forest sensitivity to climate implies large changes in 21st century North American forest growth

Noah D. Charney, Flurin Babst, Benjamin Poulter, Sydne Record, Valerie M. Trouet, David Frank, Brian J. Enquist, Margaret E.K. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Predicting long-term trends in forest growth requires accurate characterisation of how the relationship between forest productivity and climatic stress varies across climatic regimes. Using a network of over two million tree-ring observations spanning North America and a space-for-time substitution methodology, we forecast climate impacts on future forest growth. We explored differing scenarios of increased water-use efficiency (WUE) due to CO2-fertilisation, which we simulated as increased effective precipitation. In our forecasts: (1) climate change negatively impacted forest growth rates in the interior west and positively impacted forest growth along the western, southeastern and northeastern coasts; (2) shifting climate sensitivities offset positive effects of warming on high-latitude forests, leaving no evidence for continued ‘boreal greening’; and (3) it took a 72% WUE enhancement to compensate for continentally averaged growth declines under RCP 8.5. Our results highlight the importance of locally adapted forest management strategies to handle regional differences in growth responses to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1119-1128
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Climate change
  • dendrochronology
  • forecasting
  • forests
  • growth
  • modelling
  • trees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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