Trees Are Moving Westward In Response To Precipitation Changes, Purdue Research Reveals





Science, 26 May - 2017 ,

Trees Are Moving Westward In Response To Precipitation Changes, Purdue Research Reveals
Credit: cmshelpfiles.com

The research is based on analysis of 30 years of data, collected on trees from 1980 to 2015 After analyzing extensive data collected on 86 tree species in, a research team led by Purdue University

The research is based on analysis of 30 years of data, collected on trees from 1980 to 2015

After analyzing extensive data collected on 86 tree species in, a research team led by Purdue University professor Songlin Fei found that over the past 30 years, most trees have been shifting westward or northward in response to climate change.

The research, based on the analysis of 30 years of data gathered by the U.S. Forest Service, was published in Science Advances on May 17. The study represented data collected on trees from 1980 to 2015.

The study, which outlined divergent responses to climate changed based on species, also revealed that precipitation was a significant factor when considering the impact climate change can have on biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystems. Many climate change studies have generally shown a strong correlation between changes in temperature and tree shifting.

“Precipitation has a stronger near term impact on species shift than temperature,” said Fei, an associate professor at Purdue’s College of Agriculture and a researcher with Purdue’s Climate Change Research Center. As a result, most trees in the study were shifting westward to follow changes in moisture. Fei said the westward shift was one of the most surprising findings of the study.

“Yes, we did see some northward shift as we had anticipated,” he said. “But we also found many trees have been moving westward because of changing climate. When analyzing the impact of climate change, precipitation had a much stronger near-term impacts on forests instead of temperatures.”

The study also led the researchers to conclude that fluctuations in average precipitation and temperature are leading to changes in forest composition. As a result, climate change is putting “the resilience and sustainability of various forest ecosystems across eastern United States in question.”

Fei said the findings are significant in that the research team was able to examine the effects of climate change on trait-specific trees using a large amount of data.

 “It is not future predictions,” he said. “Empirical data reveals the impact of climate change is happening on the ground now. It’s in action.”


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