Southern Forest Futures Project
The Futures Project divided the South into five large ecological sub-regions that have distinct ecological traits as well as social/cultural/economic identities (see map below). Teams are preparing reports for each sub-region that distill information from the Technical Report and discuss management implications and challenges relevant to each.
This report presents forecasts from the Southern Forest Futures Project that are specific to the Mid-South, which consists of four sections located within Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas: the Ozark-Ouachita Highlands, the Cross Timbers, the High Plains, and the West Texas Basin and Range. Ranging from Little Rock, AR to El Paso, TX, it is the most diverse subregion in the South. The Mid-South faces a number of important challenges to management of forests and woodlands over the next 50 years, including population increases, the likelihood for increased drought, increased demand for water and water supply stress, sea level rise along the Gulf of Mexico, and invasive native species. Understanding these challenges, and the implications they could have on management and policy in the region, is critical to maintaining the diversity, health, productivity, and sustainability of Mid-South forests, woodlands, and grasslands.
The Mississippi Alluvial Valley, which can be broadly subdivided into the Holocene Deposits section and the Deltaic Plain section, is a 24.9-million-acre area generally approximating the alluvial floodplain and delta of the lower Mississippi River. Its robust agricultural economy is maintained by a largely rural population, and recreational resources draw high visitation from nearby urban centers. The Mississippi Alluvial Valley forms a key corridor for migratory animals, and the Mississippi River has been developed as a vital conduit of commerce for much of North America. Although forest land use currently makes up only 28 percent of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, bottomland hardwood forests and coastal swamps remain invaluable for producing forest products, sustaining biodiversity, providing recreational opportunities, and performing essential ecosystem services. Forecasts generated by the Southern Forest Futures Project provide science-based projections of how alternative futures of economic growth, population growth, climatic patterns, and a range of forest threats could drive potential trajectories of land use, forest conditions, water resources, recreational resources, and wildlife habitats across the Southern Region. This report identifies findings from the Southern Forest Futures Project that are relevant to the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, expands on the relevant findings through additional science synthesis and analysis, and outlines noteworthy implications of the alternative futures to forest-based resources and ecosystem services of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
The U.S. Appalachian-Cumberland highland consists of about 62.3 million acres in portions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia; and is divided into five sections—Blue Ridge Mountains; Interior Low Plateau; Northern Ridge and Valley; Southern Ridge and Valley; and Cumberland Plateau and Mountains. Appalachian-Cumberland forests provide a multitude of ecological services and societal benefits. This publication presents results from the Southern Forest Futures Project specific to the Appalachian- Cumberland subregion, along with associated challenges to forest management. Forecasted scenarios suggest that environmental conditions, nonnative insects and diseases, forest fragmentation, and increased societal pressure on forest land could create novel conditions that affect ecosystem structure and function. Continued changes in the societal forces that shape forest conditions, including urbanization, have the potential to affect many of the ecosystem services provided by Appalachian-Cumberland forests, including commercial and noncommercial forest products (such as timber harvesting and mushroom collecting), water quantity and quality, recreation, wildlife habitat, and biological complexity.
The Piedmont, a complex physiographic subregion of the U.S. South, encompasses parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Anticipating the future and analyzing what the interaction of future changes might mean for the forests of the Piedmont and the services they provide can improve decisions by resource managers and policymakers that have long-term consequences. The authors extracted and analyzed detailed results from the Southern Forest Futures Project to provide a set of key findings and implications for the Piedmont. The general conclusion of this analysis is that Piedmont forests will likely decline over time in response to growing populations and urbanization. Over the next several decades the Piedmont will be faced with the effects of forest loss, including changes in water quality and water supply from forests, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and increasing competition for traditional forest products industries.
The U.S. Coastal Plain consists of seven sections: the Northern Atlantic, Eastern Atlantic, Peninsular Florida, Southern Gulf, Middle Gulf-East, Middle Gulf-West, and Western Gulf. It covers a large area, consists of a diverse array of habitats, and supports a diverse array of uses. This report presents forecasts from the Southern Forest Futures Project that are specific to the Coastal Plain, along with associated challenges to forest management in this subregion: warmer temperatures; increases in urban land use; population increases; more planted pine; increased harvesting for bioenergy; impacts to hydrology and water quality; increased impacts from invasive organisms; and longer, more intense wildfire seasons. Understanding these impacts and the tools available to address them will be key to effective management of the Coastal Plain forests.
Southern Forest Futures Project
Forestry Sciences Laboratory
3041 Cornwallis Road
RTP, NC 27709