Warming climate likely will change the composition of northern forests, study shows

Warming climate likely will change the composition of northern forests, U of M study shows
Credit: David Hansen, University of Minnesota

Visitors to northern forests in coming decades probably will see a very different set of trees as the climate warms, a new University of Minnesota study shows.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, used a unique long-term outdoor experiment to examine the on trees in the boreal forest along the U.S.-Canadian border. Some in the are at the far northern range of their growing area, while others are at the far southern edge of their range. Species like spruce and fir that thrive in cooler areas to the north in Canada suffered poorer growth and survival when warmed by a few degrees, while trees like oaks and maples that prefer a more temperate performed better when warmed. Other species like aspen, birch, and pine, had a more neutral response. While all of these species may continue to co-exist, at least for a time, in a warmer climate, the study found that the balance of power, competitively speaking, shifted from the boreal species to the oaks and maples. In addition to being directly affected by warming, spruce and fir might also struggle to compete for sunlight and water with neighboring trees and plants as climate changes.

The scientists, led by Peter Reich of the forest resources department at the university, simulated the effects of a warmer climate on 10 native and 1 non-native species over three growing seasons at the University's research sites near Cloquet and Ely, Minn, and did so in both recent clearings and in shady understories. The project, known informally as "B4WarmED," used infrared heating lamps and soil heating cables to simulate the effects of just a few degrees of climate warming on 72 plots containing about 4,100 young trees of local Minnesota origin. For this paper, researchers monitored growth rates of the trees as well as how efficiently they converted sunlight into energy, the process known as photosynthesis.

The project did not examine how warmer winters might affect and other plants, but the researchers note that winter conditions could amplify the effects being seen in this study.

The results also indicated that a is likely to accelerate the northward invasion of non-native species like buckthorn. Buckthorn has slowly increased in abundance in northern Minnesota in recent decades, perhaps slowed by cool summers, but it thrived in warmer experimental conditions. This is bad news, as it suggests that buckthorn and other invasive species might take advantage of and more aggressively move up north.

"In the best case scenario," Reich says, "oaks and maples will become more dominant as boreal species decline, and we will have a different, but still functional forest. In the worst-case scenario, oaks and maples will not replace the declining species fast enough, and our forests will be patchy and perhaps filled with invading buckthorn. The change in the forest will influence everything from the supply of timber to habitat for wildlife to its allure for recreational use and tourism. Will people flock to the northern lake country if the woods are full of buckthorn and scattered oaks and maples?"

A number of University of Minnesota colleagues, including Rebecca Montgomery from the forest resources department, collaborated on the project with Reich.


Explore further

Iconic Minnesota conifers may give way to a more broad-leafed forest in the next century

More information: Nature Climate Change, www.nature.com/nclimate/journa … ll/nclimate2497.html
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: Warming climate likely will change the composition of northern forests, study shows (2015, January 20) retrieved 17 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-01-climate-composition-northern-forests.html
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Jan 20, 2015
"Warming climate likely will change the composition of northern forests, study shows."
Just hazarding a guess, but I think it would it evidence itself in a larger population of broadleaf plant life vs the coniferous...

Jan 20, 2015
Things evolve. Imagine that.

cjn
Jan 20, 2015
FTA:
"...Will people flock to the northern lake country if the woods are full of buckthorn and scattered oaks and maples?"


That's quite a bit of hyperbole. The temperature would have to change by multiple degrees/decade for growth not to compensate, but I guess that would require a little too much honest reporting. There have been warmer (and much colder) periods in our recent human history which failed to defoliate the boreal forests, so I think we can afford to be rational.

Jan 20, 2015
I think the people in Minnesota will take all the global warming they can get.....

Jan 20, 2015
The climate has been changing for as long as there has been an atmosphere. The rest is fodder for grifters and politicians.

Jan 20, 2015
The importance of Global Warming

1,700 PRIVATE JETS FLY TO DAVOS TO DISCUSS GLOBAL WARMING
http://www.breitb...warming/

If it were real no one would be flying a private jet.

Jan 20, 2015
The global temperature has not increased in 20 years. The polar ice caps expanded 155,000 square miles in 2014. That doesn't sound like warming. Asian glaciers have been expanding for 5 years. The Japanese actually changed locations where they record temperatures because they were getting cooler. Come on, how much phony data are we supposed to believe?

Jan 21, 2015
The global temperature has not increased in 20 years. The polar ice caps expanded 155,000 square miles in 2014. That doesn't sound like warming. Asian glaciers have been expanding for 5 years. The Japanese actually changed locations where they record temperatures because they were getting cooler. Come on, how much phony data are we supposed to believe?


Or, more precisely, how many pretend armchair climatologists have to inflict their wrong opinions and beliefs on the rest of us?

And now, the truth:

The "not a hiatus": http://www.thegua...e-change

Real evidence of Asian glaciers - most are shrinking: http://www.usgs.g...xwUfF91Y

I could find no evidence of the japanese moving their stations. There is a suggestion that they were concerned about heat bias because of the heat island effect as they had some stations close to cities. ...cont....

Jan 21, 2015
The polar ice caps expanded 155,000 square miles in 2014


And this one takes the cake! Talk about phony! The ice level in 2012 was at the lowest extent is has been at in recorded history. In 2014, it was at the 6th lowest extent in recorded history - fully 479,000 miles BELOW the 1981 - 2010 average.

A little truth in your denialism may help.

Jan 21, 2015
I normally take a dim view of people that ask this, so forgive me, but they actually thought they needed a "study" to come to this conclusion? Isn't this a bit like Anne Elk's theory about dinosaurs?

Jan 21, 2015
Nice study. They used a whole 3 feet circle. They must have thought the same as we do. Don't need a study for common sense!!!

Jan 21, 2015
I like the way the Deniers use what they think is logic, only to advertise their ignorance of the topic. If you do not have a decent education and experience, you will make terrible errors of assumption from what you read in wiki.

Jan 21, 2015
If it were real no one would be flying a private jet
@shooty
logical fallacy
this is the same thing as stating "If pedo-porn were real, people wouldn't use Google or the Internet"

Jan 25, 2015
I thinI think rising temperature will make the following well known North American insect feel like they are on the beach in Cancun, Mexico.
Leaf-feeding aphids, Asian Longhorn Beetle and the Adelgids which are small, soft bodied aphids that feed exclusively on coniferous plants using piercing-sucking mouth parts. The black turpentine beetle is found from New Hampshire south to Florida and from West Virginia to east Texas. Attacks have been observed on all pines native to the South. The Douglas-fir beetle and the Douglas-fir tussock moth are important defoliator of true firs and Douglas-fir in Western North America. Not to forget the eastern pine shoot borer, also known as the white pine tip moth. The fall web-worm or is known to feed late in the season on nearly 100 different species of trees in North America. The forest tent caterpillar is an insect found throughout United States and Canada where hardwood's grow.

Jan 25, 2015
Southern coast of England went from deciduous forest to tundra in something less than 100 years at the start of the Younger Dryas.

The climate changes.

Jan 25, 2015
I think the people in Minnesota will take all the global warming they can get.....


Wrong.
Why do you think they live there in the FIRST place...?

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