What is the role of demographic factors in air pollution and forests?

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The advent of the twenty-first century finds us with many reasons to consider scenarios for global change and air pollution in concert. During the decade of the 1980s, there were large research efforts in Europe and North America focused on the ecological consequences of air pollution and acidic deposition. These efforts, however, largely ignored climate change. During the decade of the 1990s, similar major research efforts were initiated globally with a focus on the consequences of global climate change. At this point, however, there has been limited research focused on understanding the interactions of multiple factors, including air pollution, insects and diseases, and even fewer attempts to incorporate such factors into modeled projections of climate change impacts on forest distribution or productivity. Twenty-first century scenarios for changes in spatial patterns of air quality will not only be driven by natural weather and climate variability, but also by changes in demographics, land use, and economic growth. These factors may result in quite different patterns on a global, regional (continental), or subregional scale from those observed over the past century. Changes in both climate and air pollution are the result of dynamic processes that will influence each other, and that will develop over time. Because of inherent uncertainties in knowledge of the processes affected, our understanding of the magnitude of the responses are equally uncertain. For the community of scientists engaged in research on the relationships among air pollution, climate change, and forest health and productivity, the need of landowners and other decision-makers for science-based adaptive strategies should challenge us, and makes a compelling case for an aggressive research agenda. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Developments in Environmental Science