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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dartmouth study finds mixed impact of climate change on North American forests

When it comes to the signature of global climate disruption on forests, the first things that usually come to mind are wildfires and the devastating spread of invasive, forest-killing insects.  But researchers at Dartmouth University studying the effects of global climate disruption on North American forests have  concluded that some regions' forests may actually benefit.

Consequences of climate change for biotic disturbances in North American forestspublished in the journal Ecological Monographs, finds the expected insect outbreaks, plant diseases, wildfires and other problems. 
Results show that over the last 50 years, the average global air temperature has increased about 1 [degree] ̊F, while the coldest winter night averages about 7 ̊[degrees] F warmer [emphasis mine]. That has permitted population explosions of tree-killing bark beetles in forests that were previously shielded by winter cold and made it easier for invasive species to become established.
But they they also found that: 
warmer temperatures are also making many forests grow faster and some less susceptible to pests, which could boost forest health and acreage, timber harvests, carbon storage, water recycling and other forest benefits in some areas [again, emphasis mine].
Is this single study - which involved a review of nearly 500 scientific papers dating to the 1950s - a reason to be sanguine about the future of our forests in a rapidly warming world?

Somehow, I don't think so.

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