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

Awake Parenting

Children are not ours to possess or own, but rather to guide into living fearlessly and authentically.

Pets Love Music

With their ears attuned to different frequencies, horses neigh to Bach, cats groove to New Age, and dogs de-stress to “Greensleeves.”

Championing Holistic Athletes

Athletes in a wide range of sports are finding that natural diets and holistic healing modalities help them achieve their personal best.

Milk Chocolate Also Benefits Heart Health

Harvard researchers found that people eating one to 12 ounces a month of milk chocolate – but less than 30 ounces – had a lower risk of irregular heartbeat.

Gut Bacteria Imbalance Linked to Chronic Fatigue

In a Columbia University study, people with chronic fatigue syndrome were found to have an imbalance in the levels of certain gut bacteria.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

Meditation Can Transform Lives

Louis A. Ritz, Ph.D., serves on the faculty of the department of neuroscience of the University of Florida College of Medicine, where his focus is on education of medical and graduate students.

New Online Meditations for Pain Management, Sleep and Anxiety

Rita Hickman, with INSIDE/InSpire Massage, in McHenry, has collaborated with University of Utah Healthcare to offer online and downloadable meditations to assist with pain, sleep, relaxation, successful surgeries and more.

April 2012 Publisher Letter

This month, we bring you a great selection of articles that highlight simple actions you can take to live lighter on the Earth, to help your neighbors and to protect our global future.

Community Acupuncture Available at an Affordable Cost

Nirvana Naturopathics is offering a new Community Acupuncture program with owner Lana Moshkovich, LAc, ND, DiplOM, beginning October 1.

Local Co-Op Donates Bikes, Enriches Lives

Based in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, Working Bikes Cooperative's (WBC) mission is to repair unused or unwanted bikes and give them to people who could benefit.

Get Started on the Path to Optimum Dental Hygiene

Dr. Yvette Collins understands the importance of a healthy immune system, and is offering $100 off an oxygen/ozone dental cleaning procedure for a limited time.