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Forests cover about 47% of the Northwest (NW–Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) (Smith et al. 2009, fig. 5.1, table 5.1). The impacts of current and future climate change on NW forest ecosystems are a product of the sensitivities of ecosystem processes to climate and the degree to which humans depend on and interact with those systems. Forest ecosystem structure and function, particularly in relatively unmanaged forests where timber harvest and other land use have smaller effects, is sensitive to climate change because climate has a strong influence on ecosystem processes. Climate can affect forest structure directly through its control of plan physiology and life history (establishment, individual growth, productivity, and morality) or indirectly through its control of disturbance (fire, insects, disease). As climate changes, many forest processes will be affected, altering ecosystem services such as timber production and recreation. These changes have socioeconomic implications (e.g. for timber economies) and will require changes to current management of forests. Climate and management will interact to determine the forests of the future, and the scientific basis for adaptation to climate change in forests thus depends significantly on how forests will be affected.
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Forest ecosystems: Vegetation, disturbance, and economics: Chapter 5