Like that scene in The Lord of the Rings where the trees literally walk away, trees in the eastern United States are moving west and north. The culprit is climate change.
Dozens of tree species are moving from their usual locations as average temperatures and rainfall patterns have changed drastically in recent years, researchers discovered. Oak, maple and other deciduous trees are going westward, following changes in the levels of moisture, Mashable reports. On the other hand, evergreens like pines and firs are shifting northward to find cooler climates.
Songlin Fei, the study’s lead author and a Purdue University professor, said,
It is not future predictions. Empirical data reveals the impact of climate change is happening on the ground now. It’s in action.
This movement will have a big impact on forest ecosystems in the country. Animals, plants, insects and soil all depend on trees for their survival, and trees likewise rely on this web for growth and spreading seeds. If the trees continue this trend, this system will be thrown off balance.
For birds, it’s getting even harder. Spring weather has become more unpredictable in North America, making it more difficult for songbirds to time their migrations and ensure the best food and habitats for their young, another report stated.
The research on trees analyzed data from the US Forest Service gathered from 1980 to 2015. This included 86 tree species between Maine and Minnesota, and as far as Florida.
Over 35 years, the mean annual temperature in the eastern USA increased by 0.16 degrees Celsius or 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit. Northern states had the greatest temperature increases, according to the researchers.
Rainfall patterns also changes, especially in the southern region, where there have been widespread droughts. Scientists have attributed all these changes partly to global warming caused by human activities.
Greenhouse gas concentrations have reached new high levels, and land and sea temperatures have gone up, affecting weather patterns and bringing on natural disasters such as floods, droughts and heat waves. These have all overwhelmed nature’s ability to cope.
Fei said more research is needed to check on how sustainability and biodiversity in forest ecosystems will be affected.
The study was published in Science Advances.