Increasing Drought Threatens Forests

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Forests nationwide are feeling the effects from increasing drought and climate change, according to a new study by scientists from 14 research institutions. Evidence is mounting that climate is changing faster than tree populations can respond.  

"Over the last two decades, warming temperatures and variable precipitation have increased the severity of forest droughts acorss much of the continental United States."

- James Clark, Lead author of the study and an environmental scientist at Duke University

Drought-induced forest community deaths, bark beetle infestations, and wildfires are already occurring on large scales across the West. Many models predict droughts are likely to become more severe, frequent and prolonged across much of the U.S. in the future.

As conditions become drier and warmer, many tree populations, especially those in Eastern forests, may not be able to expand into new, more favorable habitats at a fast enough pace to keep up.

The new paper addresses this need by providing a comprehensive overview of current and projected drought effets on forests nationwide, how they vary by region, and which management practices could help to partially mitigate adverse effects.