Climate change is causing trees in the eastern U.S. to move north, west

Climate change is causing trees in the eastern U.S. to move north, west

Thirty years of data revealed many tree species are moving westward in response to climate change. This photo was taken in the Appalachians in eastern Kentucky.

Climate change is causing trees in the eastern U.S. to move north, west

Left: Changes in temperature across the eastern U.S. between the recent past (1951–1980) and the study period (1981–2014). Yellow and red areas have warmed, while blue areas have cooled. Right: Changes in precipitation. Blue areas have gotten wetter and brown areas have gotten drier.

One of the more striking examples is the scarlet oak, which in nearly three decades has moved more than 127 miles northwest from the Appalachians, Fei told the Associated Press. Today, its population is reduced in the Southeast and more popular in the Midwest.

"Management actions to increase forest ecosystems’ resilience to climate change should consider the changes in both temperature and precipitation," the study advised.

Brent Sohngen of Ohio State University, who was not involved in the study, told the AP the findings show “there is no doubt some signature of climate change." But he added that given the rapid rates of change reported, harvesting, forest fires and other disturbances are probably still playing a more significant role than climate change.

The research, which studied 86 species of trees and was based on the analysis of three decades of data gathered by the U.S. Forest Service, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.



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