Beech trees are quickly dominating the forest landscape in the northeast United States, and climate change could be the culprit, scientists say.
Global warming and climate change are having a dramatic effect on trees in the northeastern United States and in southeast Canada, according to groundbreaking new research. While scientists have frequently discussed the devastating impact of climate change ranging from rising sea levels to drought to violent storms, not as much is said about the more localized impacts, and scientists are witnessing the beech tree start to dominate.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, analyzes 30 years of data from that region and found that the low-value beech trees have been doing quite well – much better than more valuable maple and birch trees, in fact. And scientists believe that climate change is responsible for this dramatic shift in woodland diversity.
Beech is often used as firewood, but it is considered a low-value tree because it cannot be used commercially for the production of flooring or furniture. Also, the trees are prone to disease and tend to die young. The study concludes that beech trees are doing better than other trees because they are more suited to a hotter and wetter climate than other trees, and that is what climate change is delivering to them.
“They found the beech-dominated forests particularly evident in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire,” the University of Maine statement reads. “Climate-associated changes in forest composition often include high mortality in sensitive species and disproportionate favoring of others that can better adapt to the new conditions, the researchers note. In the Northeastern U.S., beech sapling presence and abundance has likely been driven by additional factors, including the long absence of wildfire and clear cutting, and species characteristics, such as shade tolerance.”