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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Climate Change could change Forests

Climate Change could change Forests

Date : 19th Feb 2002, Source : Newsgroup

SANTA BARBARA, California, February 13, 2002 (ENS) - The composition of forests and other plant communities will change as a result of global warming, argues new research published in the journal "Ecology."

Based on a study of the fossil record, University of California, Santa Barbara post doctoral fellow John Williams and his coauthors said climate change will alter which plants can survive in which areas.

Over the past 25,000 years, climate change was responsible for different and changing assemblages of types of trees, said lead author Williams, based at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara.

"A lot of trees are dying right now - oaks in California, chestnut, elm and spruce in the East - and while the direct causes are pests and fungal attacks, the indirect cause could be climate change, making the trees more stressed out," said Williams. "It becomes harder for them to defend against other causes of mortality."

In developing his report, Williams and coauthors analyzed data from computerized data sets accessible through the Internet. Using the North American Pollen Database, a collection of fossil pollen records collected from lake sediments over the past 30 years, and climate model simulations, the authors were able to track vegetation change and climate change in Eastern North America during the past 25,000 years.

Using fossilized lake sediments, scientists have been able to match up the assemblages of trees that were present during a variety of climatic periods. The results showed short lag times and large changes in vegetation in response to rapid climate change.

Plant communities that are unlike any today grew under climates also unlike any today, suggesting that future climate change may also produce novel plant communities.

The authors note that vegetation composition has changed rapidly in the past 100 to 200 years - the life span of a single tree - and may change just as fast in the future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects a rise in temperature of 2.7 to 9.9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century which would cause major changes in trees and other vegetation.

"The implications of change are large. They include things like water availability, habitat for endangered species and use of recreational areas," said Williams. "There is the potential for very rapid changes in forest composition."



Document last updated on Tuesday 30 August 2011

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