Chicago Study Finds Suitable Trees for a Warming Midwestern Climate

Chicago, IL (February 10, 2014) – A recent study, led by Dr. Andrew Bell, curator of woody plants at the Chicago Botanic Garden, analyzed 50 trees common to Chicago’s urban forest for their ability to adapt to a steadily warming climate through 2050. Bell recently blogged about the results of the study and posted a video to guide homeowners and urban foresters to plant diverse and hearty urban trees into the future.

Chicago Botanic Garden_2According to Bell’s research, the majority of trees common to Chicago’s urban forests will be able to adapt to a warming climate, but about ten of the 50 trees, or 20%, will no longer find the metropolitan area a welcoming habitat. The remaining 40 trees under study would continue to thrive under worst-case warming scenarios through mid-century. The ginkgo is likely to be one of the best performers.

The trees were evaluated for their performance in three types of urban uses: sidewalk plantings, parks and residential settings, and public gardens and other “legacy” sites.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is home to more than 13,000 trees. Disease, infestations, and extreme weather events all impact these trees. Currently, the Garden is undertaking a ten-year plan to remove about 400 trees that have succumbed to the emerald ash borer.

A $120,000 research grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services funded the adaptive planting study to identify which trees will continue to thrive in Chicago’s urban forests under worst-case carbon-emissions scenarios.

The results point to two key actions: drastically reducing carbon emission to slow climate change and help protect existing trees, and carefully selecting the trees we plant for future generations.

Watch Dr. Bell’s video for guidance on specific Midwestern trees.

Related Resources

Chicago Botanic Garden Adaptive Planting Guidance
Trees for 2050: A study of suitable trees for a warming midwestern climate