Chicago Wilderness Region Vulnerability Assessment

Chicago Wilderness Region Vulnerability Assessment

The urban forest of the Chicago Wilderness region, a 7-million-acre area covering portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, will face direct and indirect impacts from a changing climate over the 21st century. The Urban Climate Change Response Framework has completed a vulnerability assessment of the Chicago Wilderness region. This assessment evaluates the vulnerability of urban trees and natural and developed landscapes within the Chicago Wilderness region to a range of future climates. Members of the Climate Change Response Framework (CCRF) synthesized and summarized information on the contemporary landscape, provided information on past climate trends, and illustrated a range of projected future climates. CCRF then used this information to inform models of habitat suitability for trees native to the area. Projected shifts in plant hardiness and heat zones were used to understand how nonnative species and cultivars may tolerate future conditions. They also assessed the adaptability of planted and naturally occurring trees to stressors that may not be accounted for in habitat suitability models such as drought, flooding, wind damage, and air pollution.

A key step to understanding the potential impacts of climate change on the urban forest is to conduct vulnerability assessments. Urban Forestry Vulnerability Assessments integrate the unique challenges in working in developed and undeveloped areas across the urban landscape. In the assessment of the Chicago Wilderness area, the CCRF: 

  1. Assessed the vulnerability of trees across the region using habitat suitability models, projected changes in heat and hardiness zones, and assessing adaptive capacity of species. 
  2. Synthesized the latest scientific literature on climate change impacts to the region. 
  3. Summarized case studies of community-level vulnerability assessments for urban forests

Download the Assessment

To learn more about the vulnerability assessment, related resources, and corresponding projects, visit the Climate Change Response Framework.