Trees and Migrations

May 30, 2017 | written by:

Migrations: a biological and social phenomenon where moving from one geographical area to another becomes necessary due to a change in environmental, demographic or social conditions. We used to think that they interested only the animal world but, in the last years, we have also discovered massive human migrations that are changing the geopolitical framework. In fact, and perhaps only a few will know it, even trees undertake migrations, but a research published by the Purdue University in West Lafayette (Indiana) has shown staggering data: over the last 30 years, plants in the eastern United States have traveled... in the wrong direction.

Looking at the path of 86 tree species through US Forest Service data (in the years 1980-1995 and 2013-2015) on plants in Maine, Minnesota and Florida, it was found that trees are able to respond to climate changes, water availability and temperature variations, but also that in only ten years they have traveled 15.4 kilometers not to the North, looking for milder climates, as it would be to think, but to the West. A difficult evidence to be explained, concerning in particularly the youngest trees and that deviates from what has always been observed and hypothesized. To make matters worse, there is also the 'speed' factor: moving is taking place very quickly, about 4 Km more per decade.

At this moment, this new direction taken by angiosperm and flowering trees is explained by researchers with the change in precipitation. However, it’s still complex to determine the exact reason and the weight to be given to other factors such as the settlement of many residents in the affected areas since the 1920s or the spread of parasites and fires.

What is certain is that in the last 35 years in the US, the average annual temperature has risen by 0.16 degrees Celsius and today's forests look different from 10, 20 or 30 years ago. The trees are adapting to this 'new world' by looking for damp elsewhere, departures and journeys that will - almost certainly - lead to a split in the most important eastern communities of trees: conifers go North, others to the West. In the East there will be a fracture and the community could begin to collapse.

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