Can Humans Help Trees Outrun Climate Change?

from NYTs

Foresters began noticing the patches of dying pines and denuded oaks, and grew concerned. Warmer winters and drier summers had sent invasive insects and diseases marching northward, killing the trees.

If the dieback continued, some woodlands could become shrub land.

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate. Rhode Island is already seeing more heat and drought, shifting precipitation and the intensification of plagues such as the red pine scale, a nearly invisible insect carried by wind that can kill a tree in just a few years.

The dark synergy of extreme weather and emboldened pests could imperil vast stretches of woodland.

So foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally. One controversial idea, known as assisted migration, involves deliberately moving trees northward. But trees can live centuries, and environments are changing so fast in some places that species planted today may be ill-suited to conditions in 50 years, let alone 100. No one knows the best way to make forests more resilient to climatic upheaval.

These great uncertainties can prompt “analysis paralysis,” said Maria Janowiak, deputy director of the Forest Service’s Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, or N.I.A.C.S. But, she added, “We can’t keep waiting until we know everything.”

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3 Responses to Can Humans Help Trees Outrun Climate Change?

  1. Shegufta Tasneem May 1, 2019 at 11:13 pm #

    Pollution and deforestation are like cancer to the Earth. More than any other natural causes, human beings are the ones most responsible for climate change. We have taken it carelessly for too long and did not pay as much attention to it as we should have. Even now, a fairly large portion of the population does not believe in climate change although they are witnessing themselves the adverse and dire effects of climate change around us. For starters, the increase in temperature, unseasonable rain, and heat, continuing snow storms, etc. have become a regular factor in our climate. But this is unacceptable. It is a matter of hope that some people have started taking individual attempts at fighting this adversity. For example, an elderly couple in Brazil is said to have planted trees within a spacious land over twenty years, which has now resulted in a forest full of big green and lively trees. This is admirable because of one of the most important ways we can fight climate change in forestation. People and organizations in different states of the United States have also taken steps towards this, as the article states. The 300 Year plan at Minnesota seemed exceptionally interesting to me since it started as an entirely individual attempt at fighting climate change. It was a fight on a personal level where the person decided to take his own initiatives to preserve and hand over a better world to his grandchildren. His plan is not altogether with a perfect one which will have a broad and fast impact on the world. But it certainly will make the northern coast of the United States a much better habitat than the rest of the country and probably even the rest of the world. The effects of climate change are much drier and evident in the Asian and African continents. Countries in South Asia such as India, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh are struggling to survive the untimely heat all throughout the year. There is terrible heat during most of the year and then continuous rain during the winters which is highly unlikely to how it was earlier. So, it is high time that people around the world started taking individual attempts at making this world a better place to live in. It is our responsibility to make sure the future generations can continue the processes that we start and are able to live in better living conditions.

  2. Nicholas Meyerback May 3, 2019 at 1:04 am #

    When thinking of climate change one of the first things that comes to mind is rising global temperatures. The traditional view of climate change is limited to just global warming. Scientists, in conjunction with journalists, rebranded this phenomenon to deter this misconception. The truth is that rising temperatures are certainly a key player in the problem, but not the only offender. The climactic shifts occurring across the board must be highlighted.

    Besides causing rising sea levels that threaten coastal areas, rising temperatures threaten life inland. It is apparent that climate change is directly facilitating and aggravating forest fires. In fall of 2018, forest fires ravaged California in a historic manner. That wildfire season was the worst on record, destroying close to 2 million acres, costing $3.5 billion in damages and taking the lives of 104 people (according to the NY Times). Forest fires are a combination of human action and climate change. Sure it takes arson or an unattended campfire to spark the flame, but atmospheric changes make an area much more susceptible to this kind of catastrophe. California’s average temperature has risen three degrees in the last century and the hottest and driest summers on record have transpired in the last twenty years (national geographic). The substantial climb in temperature syphons more liquid out of plants, leaving behind arid landscapes awaiting a spark.

    Climate changes’ impact on forestry doesn’t stop there. When examining the effects of climate change, one must keep in mind the chain reaction of stimuli of an ecosystem. Organisms are inherently tied to the status of other organisms because of the food chain and the interaction between overlapping niches. When one species is affected by climate change, the entire ecosystem feels the heat. If one species dies off, there’s less food for another. This may force predators to migrate into foreign ecosystems. Such is the case with invasive insects in North America. Climate change is causing warmer winters and drier summers in the traditional habitats of species that are known to negatively impact trees. Now these insects are moving north in search of colder climates and are crippling the trees that call these areas home. The problem is that the forests cannot naturally escape as fast as the invasive species encroach on their territory. Generally, trees can migrate from generation to generation by spreading their seeds in the wind. The problem is that the newly arrived threat, a byproduct of climate change, is much quicker than seed dispersion. As a result, local activists and ecologists alike are taking action. One of the solutions is to manually plant seeds in other areas to expedite the process of seed dispersion. The issue with this method is that it is difficult to predict where the trees will flourish. More importantly however, is that it is nearly impossible to forecast how the trees will adapt to the change in climate of prospective areas in the coming decades. This is proof that climate change is truly a complex issue as it can make solving one of its effects more difficult.

  3. Kyle Stephens May 3, 2019 at 12:17 pm #

    Global warming is a topic that has been around and known about for decades and has yet to see any advances to help fix it. In my opinion, this should be at the top of priority list because if we can’t fix this, then fixing other things doesn’t even matter because we are literally slowly killing ourselves. One main problem within global warming is trees. We are cutting down forest after forest and not replanting enough to sustain tree life on earth. But, we are also not planting enough to deal with the amount of CO2 we put in the air. Many global warming officials believe we have now past the point of no return. This means that no matter how many trees we plant we can not reverse the damage that we have done to the earth. First of all, this is absolutely horrific. It baffles me that we as a society don’t have the common sense to make change where it undeniably matters. This should be one thing the world should be able to put differences aside over. We should be able to come together as an entire world and solve this problem, because if we don’t we have less and less time left before the earth dies. We should start by doing anything we can to slow the process. That could mean doing the “300 year plan” and diversify our current forests to help them grow bigger and introduce new ecosystems to help replace ones that we destroyed. We should start looking into ways to artificially create new ice sheets to be put in the arctic to help replace the ones that have melted because of our immaturity and lackadaisical approach to conservation. However, we don’t want to start playing God and make it how we want it to be. We should be aiming to make earth how it would be right now if we weren’t idiots. Overall, climate change is becoming the silent killer. We still don’t know any solutions to the problems we’re facing and global governments are not ready to work together to solve it. Honestly, we could have already screwed ourselves out of a planet. This may be what causes the mass extinction of humans. We are in the end game now. -Dr. Strange

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