❝ As anybody who’s taken a drive through Vermont in the autumn will know, the eastern US has plenty of iconic trees, like maple and oak. But over the past three decades, deciduous tree species in this part of the world seem to be shifting westward, according to new research…Evergreens, meanwhile, are going north.
❝ Past research has tracked how some tree species are moving north for reasons related to climate change. But in Science Advances, researchers looked at 30 years’ worth of tree data from the US Forest Service, including 86 species, reflecting changes between 1980 and 2015 — and, to their surprise, saw this westward shift of deciduous trees. “We show that more tree species have experienced a westward shift than a poleward shift (62%) in their abundance, a trend that is stronger for saplings than adult trees,” it reads.
This wasn’t a modelling exercise that casts forward to something that may happen in the future. Rather, it’s tracking changes that are happening now.
❝ This strange shift appears to be linked to climate change and its accompanying effects. Over the last 30 years, the study says, the mean annual temperature in the eastern US has gone up by 0.16 ̊C, on average, and the northern region has seen the highest increase…
Precipitation patterns are shifting, too: The central US has seen an increase of more than 150 mm total in annual precipitation, and there’s been a reduction in the southeast…
“There is still some skepticism out there about climate change,” Songlin Fei of Purdue University acknowledged. With this study, “we’re saying, let’s look at what’s actually happened. We wanted to show the reality, not speculations.” Our environment is changing more rapidly than many scientists expected. Fei asked: “Is our society ready to adapt?”
Yes, this is probably too short-term to be classified as climatology. But, as Fei correctly characterized, scientists have a habit of being conservative – regardless of propaganda from fossil fuel pimps. The inclination described just may be a short-term trend, e.g., meteorology not climatology.