The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) to James S. Clark (Principal Investigator) and Kai Zhu (Co-Principal Investigator) for support of the project entitled “DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Forest climate requirements change through species life history.” This award is effective May 1 , 2013 and expires April 30, 2014. See details on the NSF website. Abstract below.

Global warming is expected to have strongly negative effects on many species. One way these effects might be reduced is if species can change their geographical ranges as climate changes; if species can migrate to cooler places such as higher latitudes or elevations as temperature rises, they may be able to stay in the same climate by changing place. However, the preliminary research for this project shows that species of trees in the eastern U.S. have not moved northward. The project will test two alternative hypotheses to explain this, both based on whether young and adult trees differ in their ability to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. Researchers will expand a current species distribution model to include more explicit effects of juvenile and adult responses to temperature, and use data from a national forest inventory and climate measurements to compare the abundances of juveniles and adults.

Anticipating the impacts of climate change on U.S. forests is an important issue for forest managers and for the nation as a whole. Results from this project will help plan strategies for maintaining forest productivity and for substitutions of alternative land uses. The project will also strengthen collaboration between Duke University and the USDA Forest Service, and train a Ph.D. student and an undergraduate student.