As our climate shifts, so do trees

Friday, April 27th, 2018

When we think of migratory species, trees are probably not the first things we picture. Perhaps that’s why the work of Songlin Fei has captured the imagination of the scientific community.

Fei, associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and researcher with Purdue’s Climate Change Research Center, led a study that shows trees are shifting northward as temperatures warm, but also to the west in response to increased precipitation. 

Discover magazine named the study as one of its top 100 scientific stories of the year. Originally published in the journal Science Advances, the study was also covered by Nature and other national publications.

The study was based on analysis of 30 years of data on 86 tree species gathered by the U.S. Forest Service and outlined divergent responses to climate change based on species. It revealed that precipitation was a significant factor when considering the impact climate change can have on biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystems.

Fei’s co-authors are Johanna Desprez, Insu Jo and Jonathan Knott, all of Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources; Kevin Potter of North Carolina State University’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources; and Christopher Oswalt of the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station.

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