Migrating Trees

Forests Shift West with Climate Change




WathanyuSowong/Shutterstock.com

The consequences of climate change are impacting plant species in unanticipated, but logical ways; for instance, conifers and other needle trees are moving northward because they are more sensitive to temperature than flowering, deciduous trees. They already populate the boreal forest of eastern North America, so they’re well-adapted to expand into colder, drier conditions.

Individual trees can’t move, but populations can shift over time as saplings expand into a new region while older growth dies in another. A new study published in Science Advances also shows that about three-quarters of tree species common to eastern American forests, including white oaks, sugar maples and American holly, have shifted their population centers westward since 1980 due to drier conditions in the East.

Global warming has significantly altered rainfall totals. Songlin Fei, a professor of forestry at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, and one of the study authors, observes, “Different species are responding to climate change differently. Most of the broadleaf species of deciduous trees are following moisture that’s moving westward.”

Changes in land use, conservation efforts, wildfire frequency and the arrival of pests and blights all play parts in shifting populations. Forest ecosystems are defined as much by the mix of species and the interaction between them as by the simple presence of many trees. If different species migrate in different directions, then ecological communities could eventually collapse.


This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

A Garden Like No Other

Rob Eubanks, aesthetic director and volunteer for From the Ground Up Community Garden, says he’s never seen a project like it. Besides its educational and nutrition outreach, it also provides a space for a variety of creative artists and events.

Pensacola Sprouts

This isn’t your typical garden. Sure, From the Ground Up Community Garden houses plants, but it also educates the public from grade school to adulthood, gives back to the community and offers entertainment under the stars with a unique and beautiful backdrop.

INTEGRATIVE CHIROPRACTIC

Most people who decide to visit a chiropractor are seeking treatment for an injury or structural concern.

Barbara Bruni on Pilates for Breast Cancer Patients

Exercise has numerous benefits to our physical and psychological health, from increasing our strength, flexibility, mood and self-esteem to reducing stress, depression and anxiety.

WELLSTOCK Festival Returns to Destin

The second annual Wellstock Festival will take place November 3, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin. This year’s festival has a youth theme, says founder Maurice Hunter.

Add your comment:

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT