PLANTING FOR 2100
By 2100, changes in climate will have radically reshaped the land and what grows there. Already we can see today drastic changes to length and intensity of the seasons - a condition which will have dramatic effects on everything that grows, from your backyard garden to the Monongahela National Forest.
These effects will vary dramatically, but can be summarized generally by region. Across the board in Appalachia, the best projections expect many more warm days and a bit more rain, too.
Here’s a look at how things are going to change in Northern Appalachia, right around the New York / Pennsylvania border. Compared to today, average summer temperatures could be almost 10 degrees warmer and extend all the way until the end of October.
But as much as your garden is likely to change over the coming years, the greater forest eco-system that covers most of Appalachia will likely change even more. If we want the forests in this place to recover and thrive, it is critical that we understand how to plan for these changes.
It isn’t possible to say for certain what the future forest will look like, but an examination of three select species might give us some insight towards taking the right first steps
This staple species is native to Central Appalachia and plays a key role in the ecosystem there. This species is expected to be relatively unaffected by climate change and may even see a slight increase in its range. Mine sites, mountaintops, and steep eroded slopes can be partially restored by planting Pinus virginia which will continue to thrive in this region for the foreseeable future.
Sugar Maples are a beloved species for their ability to produce maple syrup as well as for their popular role as shade trees. It is native to Northern Appalachia, but unfortunately, as the climate continues to warm, this species is liklely to be pushed north beyond the boundaries of the region. If you were thinking about planting Acer Saccarum saplings now for a payoff later, consider instead a species which can adapt more readily to the future climate such as Live Oak (Quercus virginia)
Known for their wood and their edible nuts, Shagbark Hickory and its many Carya cousins is expected to expand its range greatly over the next century. The wood has been traditionally used in crafts, construction, and the culinary arts. It tends to grow in the understory of Hickory-Oak forests, a forest type which is likely to one day cover the vast majority of the region. Planting them now is a safe bet, as some have been known to live up to 350 years, but make sure to pair them with Quercus alba or rubrum when working on future-oriented restoration.
The Green New Deal is changing the face of the forests, too. With the fossil fuel industry dismantled and their monopoly on viable land broken apart, enormous amounts of land in Appalachia will begin to change on their own. With good planning and careful stewardship, these former sites of extraction can become sites of abundance for both the forests and the people of this place.
Click through the diagram on the right to see how a pipeline easement might be converted to an assisted tree migration corridor:
Do the same on the diagram on the left to see one way that a former natural gas well or strip mine might be given a new array of uses: