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    Author(s): Jonathan Thompson
    Date: 2005
    Source: Science Findings 75. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p
    Publication Series: Science Findings
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (663.0 KB)


    Nineteen scientists from leading research institutes in the United States collaborated to estimate how California’s environment and economy would respond to global climate change. A scientist from the PNW Research Station led efforts to estimate effects on vegetation, carbon, and fire.

    To quantify the range of the possible effects of climate change over the next century, researchers used state-of-the-art climate change simulations coupled with a dynamic vegetation model to gauge sensitivity of natural ecosystems in California under several climate scenarios.

    The results suggest that climate change would have a more pervasive impact on the vegetation community diversity than would urbanization. Vegetation is estimated to migrate to higher elevations, which would result in reductions in the area covered by alpine meadows and subalpine forests.

    The area of commercially-important softwood tree species and the state’s signature woodlands and shrublands are predicted to decline with warming.

    Climate change could also affect fire frequency and the area burned annually, with most of the scenarios resulting in increased fire. Finally, the simulations showed that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide over the next several decades could buffer the longer term impacts of global warming.

    Publication Notes

    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Thompson, Jonathan. 2005. Climate change and California: potential implications for vegetation, carbon, and fire. Science Findings 75. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p

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