Trees have existed on Earth for nearly 400 million years, and today about 100,000 species populate the planet. Increasingly, trees are placed at risk by climate change, which spurs heat waves, droughts, fires and infestations. Plants cannot easily adapt to quickly changing conditions or migrate as habitable lands shrink owing to expansion of cities and croplands.
Projecting the future of forests requires knowing what tree species exist where, and under what environmental conditions they can survive and even thrive.
Kevin Potter, research assistant professor in NC State University’s Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources, is part of a team mapping trees in the contiguous United States. The research results will aid in management of the nation’s forest resources, particularly tree species that are rare or economically important.