Monday, October 31, 2011

Eastern forests not adapting quickly to climate change

Many Eastern tree species aren't migrating northward as climate change models say they will, says a new study led by Duke University researchers. That could be bad news for the trees' long-term survival.

The ranges of 59 percent of the 92 species analyzed appear to be contracting on both their northern and southern ends, while 16 percent seemed to move to the south. More concerning to researchers was that only 21 percent are shifting northward.

That raises the prospect of climate change stranding some species in increasingly inhospitable surroundings. "It's kind of like pulling the climate out from from under it," said ecologist James Clark of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Models show that, as the climate warms, many tree species would lose ground on the southern end of their ranges as adults die and seeds fail to sprout. Their northern boundaries would expand as dispersed seeds find happier conditions. See some examples at this U.S. Forest Service site.

But that's not happening for many species, despite warm zones in parts of the East shifting up to 60 miles north. The researchers found no evidence that tree ranges are changing fastest where climate has changed the most. They don't believe differences in seed sizes or their ability to be dispersed account for their findings.

The study did find evidence that some species are migrating to higher elevations, as models also predict.

Clark and his colleagues, funded by the National Science Foundation, based their work on decades of data from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis program. They compared tree distributions in more than 43,000 plots in 31 states.

Kai Zhu, a doctoral student of Clark, was lead author of the study with co-authors Christopher Woodall, a Forest Service researcher in St. Paul, Minn., and Clark. The article was published in the current issue of the journal Global Change Biology.


John said...

And computer models being wrong is a surprise how?

Maybe it's not playing out as predicted because the underlying theory behind the model is wrong?

Apparently, reverse modeling using current conditions and predicted changes also failed to match up with historical data... in math, you check your result by reversing the formula. If x+y=z, then z-y=x must also be true or the formula has to be wrong... many climate models reportedly failed this simple test!

BenRitmato said...

Thanks for the link, Bruce. Any links for the study? That would be helpful.

And, John, even the fossil fuel-funded Muller finally accepts that the earth is warming. When will the rest of the deniers accept the basics of physics and the Earth sciences? CO2 traps heat, more CO2 traps more heat, and we've been putting more of it in the atmosphere.

Skippy said...

First it was global cooling, then it was global warming and now it is climate change. See the pattern here? The earth has not gotten any warmer since 1998 in case you missed the memo and climategate never happened, the polar bears aren't dying off and Fat Al Gore is still fat and trying to become the first carbon trading billionaire due of the scam that he helped create.

Anonymous said...

John doesn't care about reality....he won't be alive 50 years from heck with future generations right John? That's thinking responsibly. Got your gun loaded in case the latinos, blacks, or muslims charge your place? Atta boy John!

Anonymous said...

Skippy? Really is that your name? You don't sound like an intelligent person, so I guess Skippy is a good fit. Go stick your head back in the sand.

Al said...

Global warming is real and the earth is not flat,deal with it.
Follow the money every scientist who is a "contrarian" seems to work of the oil or coal industry.

Anonymous said...

On occasion there is some intelligent discussion about climate change but I haven't seen any in the last 15 years that I've been tracking it. The man-made proponents and the "denialists" both miss the target. With 7 billion people breathing out nearly 7 billion lbs of carbon dioxide per day plus their other carbon footprints, there are no "anti-fossil fuel" options that will change the eventual outcome if the "man-made" argument is correct. You had best hope air pollution from the Chinese "coal burners" will indeed dampen greenhouse impacts on the natural global warming process. Odd and ironic that only air pollution can save us and even more ironic that coal-fired power plants are the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide and the aerosols that counter greenhouse effects.