Indicators of climate impacts for forests: recommendations for the US National Climate Assessment indicators system
The Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) process for the United States focused in part on developing a system of indicators to communicate key aspects of the physical climate, climate impacts, vulnerabilities, and preparedness to inform decisionmakers and the public. Initially, 13 active teams were formed to recommend indicators in a range of categories, including forest, agriculture, grassland, phenology, mitigation, and physical climate. This publication describes the work of the Forest Indicators Technical Team. We briefly describe the NCA indicator system effort, propose and explain our conceptual model for the forest system, present our methods, and discuss our recommendations. Climate is only one driver of changes in U.S. forests; other drivers include socioeconomic drivers such as population and culture, and other environmental drivers such as nutrients, light, and disturbance. We offer additional details of our work for transparency and to inform an NCA indicator Web portal. We recommend metrics for 11 indicators of climate impacts on forest, spanning the range of important aspects of forest as an ecological type and as a sector. Some indicators can be reported in a Web portal now; others need additional work for reporting in the near future. Indicators such as budburst, which are important to forest but more relevant to other NCA indicator teams, are identified. Potential indicators that need more research are also presented.