Scientists noted that ecosystems all over the world are shifting their position and heading farther away from the Equator or at least towards higher altitudes. The most likely causes of this movement are, according to researchers the recent climate changes and globally warming temperatures.
However, the latest study on the US forests showed that these are indeed moving but in a quite unexpected direction. More tree species in the Eastern United States are moving westward rather than to the north.
More and More US Forests Heading West
This new research was carried out by Dr. Songlin Fei, part of the Purdue University and his team. Study results are available in the Science Advances. The team analyzed an extensive database spanning over 30 years and which offers the position of 86 species of trees.
Among these, 62 percent are following the expected route and going northwards. They seem to be moving with an average 12 miles each decade. However, 73 percent present a westwards abundance, which came as a surprise. This trend is also seemingly moving at a faster rate than the common one.
In total, the Eastern US forests were noted to have moved over 20 miles north and 25 miles to the west. The research team also found a possible pattern for these different shifts.
“Most angiosperms [flowering plants, such as oaks] shifted westward and most gymnosperms [non-flowering seed producers such as conifers] shifted poleward,” stated Fei and his team in their paper.
Direction and position changes were also significantly more noticeable in saplings than in older, established trees. The team considers that this movement is driven by variations in the rainfall patterns.
Eastern U.S. temperatures changed over the 30 years analyzed in the paper. But there have also been significant changes in precipitation levels. According to the researchers’ observations, these changes in moisture availability had much stronger “near-term impacts” on the dynamic of the US forests than the temperature changes.
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