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.”

More here.


8 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

  4. Nicole Briones May 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm #

    Climate change has been an increasingly popular topic as well as a very controversial topic throughout the years. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this topic is the extremely popular photo of a polar bear standing on a melting ice cap. This viral photo really allowed people to see the effects of climate change and raised awareness about the many cities that could eventually be underwater in the next twenty years if we do not attempt to make environmental changes.
    Deforestation has contributed to between 12 percent and 17 percent of annual global greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases naturally warms the Earth’s surface which is one of the leading causes of global warming. This being said, statistics have shown that about one and a half acres of forest are cut down every second, and at this rate of deforestation, it will take less than 100 years to completely destroy all the rainforests on Earth. There have been 121 natural remedies in the rain forest that can be used as medicine, and these are only the ones we know of. Not only are destroying the Earth, but we are also destroying any natural remedies these forests provide, which can save many lives and cure numerous diseases. This being said, this article about humans outrunning climate change is extremely important. This article discusses the insects and diseases that have come with climate change that have killed trees at a rapid pace. But as informative and hopeful as this article is, I do not agree with the idea that humans can outrun climate change by planting thousands of trees. As important as saving the animals and insects that live in these trees is, deforestation and climate change is nearly irreversible.
    For hundreds of years, humans have been cutting down and destroying trees both intentionally and unintentionally. Infrastructure and agriculture have been the leading causes of deforestation, as well as forest fires that rapidly destroy thousands of acres of land and trees. All of these harmful activities have done much more than kill trees. These activities have allowed greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere and warm the Earth which has killed even more trees because now, these trees are not able to survive in such warm and dry climates that we are now experiencing. In this article, there were some successful trees that adapted to these conditions, such as the native oaks and pines, but following this success came forest fires, flash floods, and diseases that killed thousands of more trees. I think that as much as we try to plant and preserve the trees we have killed throughout the years, what we as humans don’t kill, natural disasters will. Environmental changes and climate change will only increase the amount of disasters that will occur, and although this article was specifically speaking about trees and the effects of deforestation, there are numerous other factors that will contribute to why humans will not be able to out run climate change. Deforestation only makes up 17.4 percent of the causes of global warming. Other factors include transport which makes up 13.1 percent, energy supply which makes up 25.9 percent, industry which makes up 19.4 percent, and residential and commercial buildings which makes up 7.9 percent of the causes of global warming. Having so many different factors contribute to this issue makes it nearly impossible to out run it.
    In conclusion, as hopeful as this article is, I do not think that this method will outrun climate change. So far, many of their plans have only temporarily been successful. Humans will not stop cutting down trees, because we have built our entire world off of them, to the point where we would not be able to survive or even function if we do not continue to cut them down and kill them. There are also many people who do not believe that climate change and global warming is actually occurring, and that we are the cause of it. Also, what we as humans do not kill, the environment will. Due to climate changes that have not allowed trees to survive as long as they usually would due to such dry and warm conditions, planting trees will no longer be an effective way to help increase the amount of trees that we have in the world. The only way to prevent greenhouse gasses from being distributed into the atmosphere and causing these climate changes is by stopping everyday life. Climate change and deforestation is irreversible. We have been destroying the Earth for hundreds of years, and I think we have destroyed it to a point of no return.

  5. Corinne Roonan September 1, 2019 at 7:10 pm #

    With the world being what it is now, climate change is not just a theory. Climate change is very real and it is very poignant in all of our lives; we are only starting to realize this now. Not only are our forests, the places where our oxygen is made, dying, but we are also dying. Decline in air quality, food quality, and water quality is causing real issues affecting our health. The good news is that if we do nothing about it, our air, food, and water quality will not matter because we will die along with the earth anyway. Real change is necessary now but battling climate change at the level it is now is incredibly difficult. We cannot let that defeat us into inaction.
    The simple idea of planting trees does tackle the issue in a way, but the science behind where to plant, what to plant, when to plant, and how to plant contains a lot of guess work in this capacity. The real solution to climate change is to cut emissions, specifically emissions of multi-billion companies. The emissions of regular people are not the issue facing the planet. One hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, according to The Guardian ( Though individuals can do their best to emit less carbon, there is a clear need for carbon emissions to be cut by these companies.
    I personally believe that taxes on a large scale are an invasion against personal freedoms, but in this case something drastic needs to be done. Because of this, there should be a limit to carbon emissions allowed for large companies. When that limit is passed, there should be a cost for the companies to pay per unit of carbon emitted over the limit. This money would ideally be used to combat climate change. This type of taxation may also push companies toward converting toward cleaner energy sources, which in turn helps the environment as well.
    No longer can our government and world ignore this issue that is bound to kill us if we do not act now. Serious action needs to be taken as soon as possible, and although I do not believe in serious government interference, this situation does not just call for it, it screams for it. The earth is crying for us to give it a break so that it can continue to provide for us, but no one is listening. Those who are listening join in with this crying, but the corruption and money silence it to the ears of law and regulation makers because helping the environment doesn’t have any gain attached to it, with the exception of our lives and the lives of our children, of course.

  6. Tiffany Lyn September 4, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

    Deforestation has led to climate change, soil erosion, polluted air and the extinction of many wildlife species. Ecologists and foresters are working to regrow certain tree species and fight against climate change. Climate change has been a recurring topic for decades, but only recently has it become a serious topic. Melting ice caps, dry summers and little snowfall are examples of how pollution is killing our world. Scientists say that humans have done too much damage for anything to be reversed. We can only slow down the damage that will inevitably ensue. Attempting to save tree species is better than doing nothing, but I do not think it will have any profound effects on the environment. The root of the problem is that humans create tons of plastic waste, fuel emissions and are overly dependent on electricity. Even if every inch of Earth’s land was covered in trees, we would not be able to reverse the damage that has already been done. Humans are not able to “outrun climate change” because it took decades to deteriorate our Earth. The “300 year plan” is beneficial to Rajala because his family’s business is dependent on growing diverse, healthy trees. He has a passion for preserving nature, but a majority of people’s jobs create mass amounts of pollution. Hospitals, schools, retail stores/warehouses, etc. require well-lit buildings, parking lots, disposable bags/tools and many computers. These facilities are open 24/7 or for most of the week. The only ways to cut back on waste is to invest money into renewable energy resources or create laws that limit human pollution. Without the government intervening on the topic of climate change, I do not think the majority of people will inconvenience themselves for the greater good. The world is still livable in its current condition; therefore, very few people are taking action against climate change. Planting trees cannot reverse the damaging ripple effects we have caused to the ecosystem. Certain trees, plants and animals depend on each other for food, shelter and pollination. Rebuilding an entire ecosystem is complex and seemingly impossible. Cutting back seems to be the most plausible approach to preventing any further environmental damage.

  7. Victoria Balka September 5, 2019 at 11:55 pm #

    In today’s world pollution is a major issue that if affecting the way that everyone lives and how businesses are running. One of the best ways that we can work to fight pollution is trying to prevent it from getting worse now instead of leaving it for future generations to try to fix after it becomes too late. While the idea of bringing different types of trees that grow in the south to grow in northern states because it is becoming warmer there is a good idea, it will cause harm to the species that are living in the northern forest that need the types of trees already there in order to survive. Mr. Rajala’s idea of making the forest more resilient to global warming is interesting and shows how thinking creatively can help save the planet since he was going to put the trees that grow better in the cold on the north facing slopes and the warmer growing trees on the slopes that face the south. Since he plans to do this without introducing species not native to that area, it will not harm the wildlife that are living in the forest. While Mr. Riely’s idea can also help, especially if the trees that need colder weather to survive, if Mr. Rajala’s idea works it will be much better for the wildlife living in the forest, and a lot easier for the people who are trying to save the planet since they don’t need to worry about shipping trees across the country.
    While I believe that these ideas can help save the trees from completely dying due to climate change, other things must be done in order to save the planet. The worldwide cut down on using single use plastics will help save the planet, along with reducing waste and recycling items that can be recycled. While the people in the article care about the planet and want it to be nice for the future generations, most people in the United States do not care as much and will continue to pollute the Earth. In some places their local governments have stepped in to help with pollution, such as New York’s plan to completely get rid of plastic bags in the near future. Although some governments are stepping in, it is not enough to help save and protect the planet for the future. Trying to reverse what has been done now will be a lot easier than trying to rebuild everything after it has been completely destroyed. Unfortunately, I do not believe that the mass amount of people will be willing to change their habits in order to save the environment due to it being an inconvenience for them. I hope that the world will become a cleaner and greener place with the ideas such as using tree planting tactics to hep the environment, cutting down on plastic use, and having the government help with fighting pollution.

  8. Walter Dingwall September 6, 2019 at 4:27 pm #

    The hot, drastic topic of climate change ceases to escape the attention of the media and the concerns of the population. With the recent fires of the Amazon rainforest, vast notice is (or should be) brought to climate change, regarding specifically, deforestation. This is no newly risen predicament as, in 2020, the EPA will have been active for its Fiftieth year, not to say the concern is no older.
    With the heating and drying of more land, vegetation, and more specifically in Moises Velasquez-Manoff’s words, forests are losing their territory. From the losses comes the necessary movement of these organisms towards a livable habitat. What comes from these losses, as well, is a greater reluctance to give confirmation for projects which would not aid the preservation of the forests.
    To save forestry and reforestation, pulp and paper mills across North America have seen mass shutdowns and the laying-off of employees. My father’s former employer in Vancouver, Fransen Engineering, was one of the groups affected by the procedures to save the forests. They specialized in pulp and paper manufacturing. This department of specialization is also dissolving due to the increase in digital media, putting newsprint and other physical paper media into obsolescence. From this, the preservation of the forests may be considered a biproduct.
    As the mills and the jobs slipped out of existence, Fransen’s value and productivity declined. It needed to divert its trajectory. By doing this, it would acknowledge the concept that “not all jobs are good jobs.” There had to be change in the concentration of employment between fields, leaning more towards those which may solve Earth’s climate change problems and sustain current industries with the changes in environmental safety.
    To the rescue came Tetra Tech, a Pasadena based company specialized in clean water and energy, to absorb Fransen Engineering. This is a progressive bound taken to fight climate change and the economic harm due to the dying Canadian forestry industry. By advancing into western Canada, Tetra Tech could apply its global clean water resources and services to some of the richest, prosperous series of forests in North America before a lack of vigilance and promptness could allow the greenery to start their dissolution.
    And a lack of vigilance is exactly what Jason McLachlan, the Notre Dame ecologist which Velasquez-Manoff recalls, is referring to, saying that doing nothing is “extremely risky,” as any extreme forest protection measure may be. The need for action on climate change is only accelerating as the Earth heats up and the lands dry out and the glaciers melt, at similar accelerations. Waiting, testing, retesting and consulting is a danger now and companies, like Tetra Tech, do acknowledge it.
    Now, it is not to say these companies are completely and deeply devoted to saving the planet from boiling over. Before its movement into Canada, Tetra Tech had no access to the Athabascan oil sands, a site that brings its own controversy regarding the effects on climate change and the environment in near proximity. With the controversy, there are great riches to come from business in the oil sands. Nevertheless, Tetra Tech is in there to prove clean production solution in the oil sands to bring the nearby environment out of danger. And the importance of their actions is that they are actions (opposed to inactions). It sounds better and better to start a project now, which may play out in thirty years, than to wait thirty years in hopes for an absolute solution.
    And if the it turns out the trees can’t “outrun climate change,” it is good to see that companies are aiding the forests in sight of that outcome.

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