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Some of the tall, majestic trees that grew in California’s Sierra Nevada no longer live in harmony with the sky, new research shows.
Warmer and drier conditions driven by climate change In the mountain range, some areas that were once hospitable to conifers – such as sequoias, heavy pines and Douglas firs – have become more suitable environments for conifer trees.
“They were exactly where we thought they would be, kind of on the lower elevation edge of the warmer and drier conifer forests in the Sierras,” Avery Hill, who worked on the study as a graduate student at Stanford University, told NPR .
Although there are now conifers in those areas, Hill and other researchers suggest that as the trees die, they will be replaced with other types of plants better suited to the environmental conditions.
The team estimated that about 20% of all conifer trees in the Sierra Nevada in California are no longer compatible with the climate around them. and in danger will be exterminated. They called these trees “zombie forests”.
The environment is changing faster than the trees can adapt
The vegetation group examined dates back to the 1930s, when all Sierra Nevada conifers were growing under suitable climate conditions. Now they do four out of five.
That change is largely due to higher temperatures and less rainfall in these lower elevation areas, as well as human activities such as logging and uptict in wildfires.
The conifers of the Sierra Nevada do not stand still. The average elevation of trees has increased over the past 90 years, moving 112 feet upslope. According to Hill, this is because the lower conifers died in the conifers at higher elevations where the cooler air could have grown.
But the steep journey of the nut could not match the dramatic increase in temperatures.
Researchers said the number of Sierra Nevada conifers resistant to their environments could double in the next 77 years.
New maps can inform forest conservation and management plans
But Hill, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, hopes that the maps he and his colleagues have developed showing the state of “zombie forests” will help our understanding of the human effects of climate change.
“The conservatives know, the scientists know, so many people know that ecosystems are changing and expect them to change more, and people are struggling with this,” he said.
“These maps are unique because you can put your finger on a point and say, ‘This area here is expected to transition because of climate change in the near future,’ and this forces some really hard questions about what we want this land to be managed and these immediate changes.” we’re trying to resist,” Hill added.
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