US Trees Are Migrating West. Climate Change Much?
Migrating West isn’t just for people anymore, it seems. As it turns out, trees on the East Coast have set their sights towards the setting sun and are actually migrating West.
An ecologist at Purdue University, Songlin Fel, compared data from the US Forest Service from 1990 to 1995 and compared them to the same data but from 2013 to 2015. And according to this comparison, it turns out that the trees located on the East Coast are expanding their ranges westward. Nearly half of all the tree species are actually exhibiting this behaviour of migrating West. Quaking aspens, some species of oak, plum, and cherry trees are among the 47% of all tree species that are doing this.
Well, let us clarify the matters a bit further. As all of us know, hopefully, the trees aren’t actually uprooting and making a run for it towards the West like something out of Lord of the Rings, but what’s actually happening is that their range is expanding westwards, in areas where these trees wouldn’t have normally lived otherwise. New tree samplings are beginning to grow on the western edges of their original habitats and spreading at an increasing rate.
So, what’s actually happening? Well, as you might have already guessed from the title, climate change is the main reason why. Over the past century, and more so in recent decades, the Southeast has become drier, all the while the Midwest and the Great Lakes region have gotten wetter. And like with every other species on this planet, humans included, these trees are only following the best conditions for their survival.
In short, climate change is shifting average temperatures and weather patterns, and the trees are reacting to it. We might have air conditioners, heaters and roofs over our heads, but trees don’t, and they have to move to more favourable conditions because of it. So, as time goes on and the climate changes, you can expect some species of trees to die around you and others to flourish. You can also expect other species of birds to be chirping in your window every morning.
But when it comes to these trees here, there’s no actual need to panic right away. Their average migration West happens at about a mile per year – which, of course, is incredibly fast for trees – but what do you want – they’re trees, they don’t move that fast. And the United States isn’t the only place that’s experiencing this trend. In Africa for instance, south of the Sahara Desert in an area known as Sahel, which is the boundary between the actual desert and the savanna to the south, trees and other vegetation is growing like never before in recorded history.