The research appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Sohngen conducted the study with Robert Mendelsohn of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and with Roger Sedjo of Resources for the Future, an environmental and natural resources think tank in Washington, D.C.
The scientists used climate, ecology and economic models to predict changes in global timber growth patterns during the next 60 to 100 years. The climate models predict a 1.8 to 6 degree (1 to 3.4 C) change in global temperatures in the next 50 years.
"The ecological models predict northward shifts of mainly southern pine, but over very long time periods," Sohngen said. "The economic models suggest that humans speed up that transition, which could alleviate some of the negative market impacts caused by species loss in the north.
"We looked only at the effects of climate change on timber markets," he said. "It's likely that ecosystems will be largely affected, and not necessarily for the better. The supply of timber in the United States probably won't be affected, although timber markets in the north would suffer economically."
And as temperate regions adjust to climate change, the subtropics will have a prime opportunity to corner the timber market, Sohngen said.
If the researchers' predictions hold true, northern timber-growing regions may suffer an economic setback.
"As southern-growing species migrate northward, some species indigenous to the north will die," Sohngen said. "Markets will try to keep up by salvaging as many economically viable hardwood stocks as possible, but this could lead to a glut of timber in the global market.
"In theory, trees that die back as a result of climate change would
flood the market, ultimately driving prices down," he said. "Not
Contact: Brent Sohngen
Ohio State University