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Tree migration study one of Discover’s top stories of the year

Discover magazine named a Purdue University study analyzing the movement of tree species in response to climate change as one of its top 100 scientific stories of the year.

Songlin Fei, an associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, led the study that shows trees are shifting northward as temperatures warm, but also to the west in response to increased precipitation. (Read about the study here.)

“Precipitation has a stronger near-term impact on species shift than temperature,” Fei said of his research, published in the journal Science Advances and covered by more than 50 news outlets around the world.

Using data collected by the U.S. Forest Service from 1980 to 2015, Fei found that tree migration is species-specific, with deciduous trees such as oak and maple moving west, while evergreens are trending north. Long-term changes in precipitation patterns are affecting the composition of forests and altering entire ecosystems.

Fei and colleagues are continuing research examining the role of moisture and climate change on U.S. forests.

“We are moving forward to study changes in both above- and below-ground forest communities, and hoping to better understand the impacts of drought on forest ecosystems and their management implications,” Fei said.

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