Climate change predicted to drive trees northward

Dec 03, 2007

The most extensive and detailed study to date of 130 North American tree species concludes that expected climate change this century could shift their ranges northward by hundreds of kilometers and shrink the ranges by more than half. The study, by Daniel W. McKenney of the Canadian Forest Service and his colleagues, is reported in the December issue of BioScience.

McKenney’s study is based on an extensive data-gathering effort and thus more comprehensive than studies based on published range maps. It includes data from Canada as well as from the United States. Observations of where trees are found are used to define the “climate envelope” of each species.

If the trees were assumed to respond to climate change by dispersing their progeny to more favorable locations, McKenney and colleagues found, ranges of the studied species would move northward by some 700 kilometers and decrease in size by an average of 12 percent (with some increasing while others decreased). If the species were assumed unable to disperse, the average expected range shift was 320 kilometers, and “drastic” range reductions of 58 percent were projected. The authors believe that most species will probably fall somewhere between these two extremes of ability to disperse.

The climate measures studied were chosen to represent important gradients for plants: heat and moisture. Two climate change scenarios were modeled. One assumed that carbon dioxide emissions would start to decrease during the coming century, the other that they would continue to increase. Each scenario was investigated with three well-known models of global climate, with broadly similar results.

The authors note that their study investigated only a sample of the 700 or so tree species in North America, and that under climate change, new species might colonize the southern part of the continent from tropical regions. A companion article by the same authors provides more detail about their climate envelope method as applied to one species, the sugar maple.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: California farmers agree to drastically cut water use

Related Stories

Climate change boosts a migratory insect pest

May 13, 2015

The potato leafhopper is a tiny insect—barely half the size of a grain of rice—with a bright lime green color that helps it blend in against plant leaves. Despite its unassuming appearance, this little ...

Recommended for you

California farmers agree to drastically cut water use

20 hours ago

California farmers who hold some of the state's strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.