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

Heard Nature Photo Contest Accepts Digital Entries

The Heard Museum’s annual nature photography contest, hosted by the Heard Nature Photographers Club since 1078, now uses digital submissions from all ages and experience levels from February 3 to 25.

Holistic Smile Ranch Dentistry Stresses Overall Healing

While growing up outside Beaumont, Dr. Robyn Abramczyk, of Smile Ranch Dentistry, always knew she wanted to be a doctor. When she was 10 years old, Abramczyk was in a severe auto accident, and endured multiple oral surgeries, which made her fearful of the dentist’s office.

TreeHouse Opens New Store in Plano

The eco-friendly home upgrade company TreeHouse will open their second store in the Metroplex in Plano at the Preston Park Colonnade, 220l Preston Road, next to the Whole Foods Market, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., January 18.

Composting Yards in Winter Adds Spring Resilience

Compost is nature’s way of keeping the soil in balance. The National Compost Council recently stated, “Healthy soil is a living material, ideally filled with beneficial microorganisms, including bacteria, algae, fungi and protozoa.”

Finally Get Organized this Year

Embrace New Year 2018 with open arms and be encouraged. Now is the best time to evaluate our home and life and make simple changes to bring peace and order to our world. Here are a few simple tips.

Add your comment: