Motive Project

Eastern U.S. forests not keeping pace with climate change, large study finds

by: Ulla Vänttinen

A new study ‘Failure to migrate: lack of tree range expansion in response to climate change’ has been published this month in the journal Global Change Biology. As a result of the large analysis, more than half of eastern U.S. tree species examined in the study are not adapting to climate change as quickly or consistently as predicted.

Nearly 59 percent of the species examined by Professor James S. Clark and his colleagues at the Duke University, North Carolina, USA, showed signs that their geographic ranges are contracting from both the north and south. Fewer species – only about 21 percent – appeared to be shifting northward as predicted. About 16 percent seemed to be advancing southward, and around 4 percent appeared to be expanding in both directions. The scientists analyzed data on 92 species in more than 43,000 forest plots in 31 states. The study found no consistent evidence that population spread is greatest in areas where climate has changed the most; nor do the species’ response patterns appear to be related to seed size or dispersal characteristics.

More information in the journal, ref.:
Kai Zhu, Christopher W. Woodall, James S. Clark. Failure to migrate: lack of tree range expansion in response to climate change. Global Change Biology, 2011;

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