A New Study Hints at Further Trouble Ahead for Earth's Embattled Forests

by Larry Powell

Trees around the world, including places like Canada's boreal forest, are dying from drought induced by our changing climate - and have been for years. This has been recognized in peer-reviewed studies, including one by a team of experts at the University of Quebec, published in the respected journal, NatureClimateChange, two years ago.
The Canadian Rockies. PLT photo
But a more recent study, this one reported in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research suggests further trouble ahead, this time in another eco-system. This time, a team of US researchers analyzed the relationship between growth and climate on the six most abundant subalpine tree species (growing on the higher slopes) in California's Sierra Madre mountains - and how that relationship evolved for well over a century. 

In an e-mail to PLT, one of the researchers, Christopher Dolanc of the University of California, Davis, states, "Increasing drought-stress may eventually stunt their growth. Two of these species, mountain hemlock (l.) and western white pine, are common in mountains in Canada."

The study concludes, "Although predictions of future precipitation trends are uncertain, drought stress appears to already be increasing. If this trend continues, radial growth is likely to be inhibited for most or all species in our study. Trees growing where snowpack is deep may be least likely to suffer reduced growth."