Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Project Chief: Robert S. Thompson
IntroductionVegetation changes caused by climatic variations and/or land use may have large impacts on forests, agriculture, rangelands, natural ecosystems, and endangered species. Climate modeling studies indicate that vegetation cover, in turn, has a strong influence on regional climates, and this must be better understood before models can estimate future environmental conditions. To address these issues, this project investigates vegetational response to climatic change, and vegetation-land surface impacts on climate change. The project involves calibration of the modern relations between the range limits of plant species and climatic variables, relations that are then used: 1) to estimate past climatic fluctuations from paleobotanical data for a number of time periods within the late Quaternary; 2) to 'validate' climate model simulations of past climates; 3) to explore the potential influences of land cover changes on climate change; and 4) to estimate the potential future ranges of plant species under a number of future climate scenarios. Methodologies and data developed by this project are being used as part of the national global change assessment of potential impacts of future climate changes.