Reports predict possible climate changes in Indiana

Two new Indiana climate reports say the state's forests will likely benefit from longer growing seasons, but the state could also face increased spring flooding and summer droughts.

The reports released Tuesday are part of Purdue University's ongoing Indiana Climate Change Impact Assessment. The reports are a collaboration among several Indiana universities and multiple government agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service.

Jeffrey Dukes, director of the university's Climate Change Research Center, told the Bloomington Herald Times that Indiana's average annual temperature has increased by 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century.

"Indiana's forests and urban green spaces provide important economic benefits and recreational opportunities, support our diverse wildlife and generally make our state a more pleasant and healthy place to live," Dukes said. "In order to maintain these resources and preserve them for future generations, we have to understand the potential effects of climate change and act on them now."

The increase is expected to continue and intensify, said Richard Phillips, an associate professor of biology at Indiana University. Scientists predict the state will likely get more precipitation in the winter and spring, increasing erosion, while droughts are expected in summer and fall.

While a longer growing season and increased concentration of carbon dioxide may promote tree growth, those gains may be negated by the increased frequency and intensity of flooding and droughts, according to the report.

The temperature change may benefit some animal and plant species, such as the silver maple and sycamore, Phillips said. But the changing habitat could be detrimental to other tree species like the American basswood and Eastern white pine, he said.

Warmer temperatures may also increase heat stress on plants and could result in increases pests and diseases, the report said.

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