West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the nation with 78% of its total land area as forests. Private ownership by individuals and industries comprised 87% of its total forestland area. West Virginia has a mean elevation of 1,500 ft and has 2 distinct physiographic (topographic) features ranging from Allegheny Mountains in the eastern panhandle and more than two-thirds of the state located in the Allegheny Plateau.
West Virginia’s economy is largely dependent on its forest resources. However, the overall integrity and productivity of these forest areas are threatened by climate change. The effect of climate change on vegetation is relatively unknown and more research is needed to understand its ramification to the overall functions of West Virginia’s forests.
Global climate change has been linked to mostly anthropogenic causes. Urban development, forest fragmentation, forest destruction, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emissions are some of the contributing factors to climate change. Global warming and drought are two of the most significant indicators that signify changing climate over the past 100 years.
In this module series (Modules 1-5), we will examine the factors that contribute to climate change and its effect on vegetation, particularly on spring growth. We will be looking at elevation and urban population of some cities in West Virginia as they relate to spring temperature and air quality. We will also examine how temperature affects the timing of leaf appearance in the spring.