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Digital Atlas Of North American Woody Plants

In 1999, the United States Geological Survey published a two-volume atlas of distribution and climatic data for the trees and woody shrubs of North America. The two-volume set costs $63, but the entire contents, including digital versions of the climate and distribution data, is available online for all you treehuggers out there.

Over 500 species of woody plants are covered, from Abies amabilis, the Pacific silver fir, to Zanthoxylum hirsutum, Texas Hercules club. The entry page for the Climate-Vegetation Atlas links to PDFs of the actual printed atlas pages, including the introductory text. Another link goes to tabular data that shows the climatic conditions in which the species occur, potentially useful to anyone interested in the possible effects of climate change on trees. There’s also a long page that contains links to downloadable PDF distribution maps of every species, and the original shapefile of the tree’s distribution used to create those maps. Below is a distribution map of the bristlecone pine, the longest-living tree species on earth, made using atlas data in MapWindow GIS:

The bristlecone’s distribution was more widespread during the last Ice Age, but the warming climate since then has shrunk its range to the highest, coldest peaks of the American West. Global warming is likely to shrink this range even further.

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