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Forests of the Future: Integrated Assessment of Climate Change and Ecosystem Diversity

Principal Investigator: Rob Dunn, Department of Applied Ecology, NC State University
Project Completion: September 2017. This project is now completed.
Implements Science Theme: 4

Cooperators: Lauren Nichols, and Clint Penick, NC State University


Understanding of the influence of global warming has been limited by a paucity of experiments. Taking advantage of the largest, longest-running experimental warming of a forest, we convened dozens of scientists from across the world to collect data to study and understand how bacteria, fungi, herbivores, plant pathogens, insects and a diversity of other groups respond to warming. We found that warming had a significant impact on ecosystems at both a site in North Carolina, as well as a more northern site in Massachusetts. The types of effects, however, differed between the north and south; they also differed as a function of the organisms considered. While warming affected all levels of organization, it had the greatest impact on phenology. Plants, microbes and animals were impacted to a similar extent, though the direction of the response varied by taxa, with some benefiting from warming, and other faring poorly. Warming impacted above ground responses to a greater extent than belowground responses. Overall, this experiment has provided us with a comprehensive picture of those taxa most likely to thrive or fail in light of the temperatures that will be experienced in the Southeast (and Northeast) in the next 100 years.

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