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Trees, grass, heat

Speaking of being "in the zone", Scientific American:

An analysis of forest species in six French mountain ranges (the western Alps, northern Pyrenees, Massif Central, western Jura, Vosges and the Corsican range) shows that more than two thirds of them moved at least 60 feet (18.5 meters) higher on the mountainsides per decade during the 20th century.

"Among 171 species, most are shifting upwards to recover temperature conditions that are optimum," says ecologist and lead study author Jonathan Lenoir of AgroParisTech in Nancy, France. "Climate change has already imposed a significant effect in a wide range of plant species not restricted to sensitive ecosystems."

Species are not just moving at the extremes of their ranges," says ecologist and co-author Pablo Marquet of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago. "What we show is that they are moving everywhere."

Interesting. Maybe soon, we'll get feral hogs in what used to be Zone 5?

The researchers found that grasses, herbs and other short-lived species that had been through many generations shifted the most in search of perfect temperatures, whereas long-lived trees stayed largely in place. According to the authors, this is changing the composition of the forest—mixing formerly low-altitude grasses with high-altitude trees—which could potentially affect the entire ecosystem, particularly the animals that rely on specific plants to survive.

Fascinating stuff. Readers, seeing anything like this?

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cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

From Collapse.

Did Easter's now barren landscape once support the necessary trees? That question can be answered by the technique of pollen analysis, which involves boring out a column of sediment from a swamp or pond, with the most recent deposits at the top and relatively more ancient deposits at the bottom.


Flenley and King's heroic efforts were rewarded by the striking new picture that emerged of Easter's prehistoric landscape. For at least 30,000 years before human arrival and during the early years of Polynesian settlement, Easter was not a wasteland at all. Instead, a subtropical forest of trees and woody bushes towered over a ground layer of shrubs, herbs, ferns, and grasses.


Pollen records show that destruction of Easter's forests was well under way by the year 800, just a few centuries after the start of human settlement. Then charcoal from wood fires came to fill the sediment cores, while pollen of palms and other trees and woody shrubs decreased or disappeared, and pollen of the grasses that replaced the forest became more abundant.

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

If this means coatimundis will live in the Southeast within my lifetime, I'm totally for it.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Saw one on a golf course in coastal North Carolina five years ago; surprised the hell out of me in a patch of palmetto. Lots of alligators on that course, so the sudden movement gave the old heart a workout; all sphincters held, for which I was most grateful.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Here in California, a new study from UC Berkeley shows potentially disasterous effects on native species both plant and animal:

The native plants unique to California are so vulnerable to global climate change that two-thirds of these "endemics" could suffer more than an 80 percent reduction in geographic range by the end of the century, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, study.

Because endemic species - native species not found outside the state - make up nearly half of all California's native plants, a changing climate will have a major impact on the state's unparalleled plant diversity, the researchers warn.

"Our study projects that climate change will profoundly impact the future of the native flora in California," said David Ackerly, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "The magnitude and speed of climate change today is greater than during past glacial periods, and plants are in danger of getting killed off before they can adjust their distributions to keep pace."


If plants are able to disperse in time to find more suitable habitat, the researchers found that ranges will shift by an average of 150 kilometers (95 miles) under higher climate change, often with no overlap between the old and new ranges. Paradoxically, this may separate species that now live together: Substantial numbers of floral communities may be split up as some species move south and uphill while others move north and towards the coast.

Though the study did not look at the response of invasive or non-native plants to climate change, Ackerly said that they likely will expand their ranges at the expense of natives and endemics. And shifting and shrinking ranges of endemic species likely will affect animal diversity as well. Ackerly noted that range change may separate an animal from its major food source, or a pollinator from its preferred plant.

Other scenarios are more dire; one researcher I spoke with the other day has a slightly different model based on Jim Hansen's latest global climate change estimates that shows 80% extinction to California endemic plant species by the end of the century; it is so horrific that the first journal he submitted it to rejected it as unrealistic.

One thing we have learned is that every time we collect new data and develop more sophisticated models, the future looks even worse; the trend lines never improve. Given the strength of that increasingly darker trending of trends, the real future is almost certainly going to be very grim indeed.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Here in CA we had a wonderfully wet early winter, so lots of grass growth and new brush. Then came the driest spring in oh forever; the understory of the whole state is as dry now as it normally would be in late August or September of a normal year.

Trees, grass, heat = Fire everywhere:

More than 1,000 wildfires sparked primarily by last weekend's lightning storms have now burned more than 200 square miles of land around Northern California - reducing air quality, affecting highways, threatening homes and forcing the cancellation of a famous footrace from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

The Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile race scheduled to begin Saturday, was scrapped late Wednesday for the first time in its 35-year history because of the "health risks that have been associated with these wildfires," race officials said in a statement.

The air is terrible, my eyes have been weeping for a week and my throat is raw, the skies are a hazy grim gray, and there is no end in sight. All of our firefighters are already engaged and working non-stop, and with that more than half the fires are burning out of control and unattended. Help is coming in from states elsewhere in the west, but soon they will need those crews for themselves.

The whole summer will be like this.

OxyCon's picture
Submitted by OxyCon on

I took the back roads so I could travel through the Pine Barren forest and every single Oak Tree I saw was dead (yes there are thousands of Oak Trees in the Pine Barrens). What a horrible sight. My brother in law says it's because of Gypsy moths. All I know is there are millions of tons of kindling ready to create an inferno. If a fire should start there, it's going to be massive.

BoGardiner's picture
Submitted by BoGardiner on

I'm in the foothills. (Yes, just another Appalachian low-information voter).

Until about a decade ago the remaining virgin forest remnants in Virginia were ancient hemlock coves. Many a mountain stream's shade, needed to keep temperatures low and oxygen high for trout, came from hemlocks. In winter, this was the main conifer along streams, sheltering and feeding vast numbers of wintering birds. (Winter habitat is as important as breeding habitat, but gets far less attention).

In Virginia, the legendary ancient hemlock groves with names like Limberlost are now eerie tree graveyards. Estimates for the rest range from 85-95% gone, and many expect the same fate for the entire Eastern seaboard. The birds are gone, and many fish.

The Asian wooly adelgid, a bug, is the simple cause always cited by officials, but is really more symptom than cause. The adelgid has been around since the 1950s, and did not kill trees until the climate became hotter and drier. The USGS found that trees who live are in the higher, cooler, moister coves. It appears most may have been able to survive the adelgid, but the combined stress was too much.

In other words, the East's hemlocks have been driven into a tiny and ever-shrinking zone of hospitable climate. The speed with which this happened, over about 15 years, takes my breath away.

I have never heard anyone else describe it this way. The zone squeeze is always portrayed as something happening somewhere way off where we don't have to worry our pretty little heads about it.