Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prairie/forest border is moving north because of warmer climate

John Myers in the Duluth News Tribune: Substantial areas of what is now Northland forest may someday change to savanna or grassland, according to University of Minnesota scientists detailing the impacts of climate change in a newly published research paper. The paper predicts Duluth-area forest types — red and white pine, birch and aspen — will recede northeast to about Thunder Bay, while prairie-like habitats now common in southern and central Minnesota will move into the North-land.

The scientific paper, published this month by the Ecological Society of America, also says many of the effects of a warming climate already can be seen and that more dramatic change will occur over the next 90 years. The paper was written by Peter Reich and Lee Frelich of the university’s Department of Forest Resources.

“We could become a mostly prairie state by the end of this century,’’ Frelich said. “It’s not going to retreat in uniform front. Islands of forest will remain in cooler, wetter areas and on north slopes. ... But the general line is already moving northeast.’’

Reich said the paper is among the first to tie together multiple climate-related forest issues and discuss how they may work together to compound the impact of higher temperatures. For example, warmer weather spurs more insects, which cause more tree mortality, which spurs more fire, which changes the forest….

Prairie Wind Overlook, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA, shot by Wing-Chi Poon, colors adjusted by Kjetil r, wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.

No comments: