Climate change is transforming North Carolina’s forests and plant life.

By 2100, some of our most iconic tree species will no longer have suitable environments in the southeast. Our changing climate is moving their preferred conditions north as much as 500 miles. Scientists predict that earlier spring warming and increased summer drought will make species within the pine, elm, beech and magnolia tree families particularly vulnerable. As the Fraser fir forests that support the vital Christmas tree industry disappear, revenues will decline and jobs will be lost. Songbird habitat decline is also tied to a shift in the composition of forests that results from rising temperatures.

Forest and Plant Life
Thousands of citizen scientists from states across the U.S., including North Carolina, have participated in Project Budburst. By observing the timing of events like flowering and leafing for hundreds of plant species, these volunteers help piece together the effects of climate change, one bloom at a time.

Growing North Carolina

Forests and plant life are a key part of North Carolina’s identity. Each year, more than 8 million people visit the state’s national forests to take in the scenic views of gently sloping mountains, the brilliant magenta color of blooming rhododendron, salt marshes that extend to the ocean, and lush pine forests. North Carolina currently ranks first in the nation in the production of flue-cured tobacco and sweet potatoes, second in the production of Christmas trees, and third in the production of cucumber and strawberries. How will the state's changing climate impact these industries in the future?

Scientists need more observational data to find out how North Carolina’s forests and plant life are responding to climate change. Check out these citizen science projects for some ideas about how you can help collect valuable data while enjoying North Carolina’s natural beauty.

Get Involved

FungiMap (PDF) Identify mushrooms in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to help scientists identify tree species associated with these different fungi.

National Phenology Network Volunteer to learn about plants and help monitor over 200 plant species found across the United States.

Project Budburst Record and share your observations of the first leafing, flowering, or fruit ripening of plants where you live.

Learn More

Want to learn more about the impacts of climate change on North Carolina’s forests and plant life? Check out these resources.