New research predicts that nearly all coniferous forests in the American Southwest could be lost to climate change by the end of the century.

Nathan McDowell
Nathan McDowell examines a tree at a tree survival/mortality research facility on the Los Alamos National Laboratory site. Photo courtesy of LANL.

Dr. Nathan McDowell, who led the Los Alamos National Laboratory study, says the projected mass die-off of trees like junipers and piñon pines will be widespread within the next thirty-four years.

McDowell: “The key take away from a study like this is that while the exact numbers are tenuous, the general trajectories they project are pretty robust. All of the different research is pointing in the same direction, which is that we’re going to lose forests around the world.”

What’s going to kill so many trees? The big culprits will be more frequent and intense droughts and heat waves.

McDowell: “There’s one smoking gun: we must curb CO2 emissions dramatically and the Paris climate talks last December are a great step in that direction.”

And smart forest management is critical since drought also increases the risk of wildfire. McDowell advises prescribed burns to control grasses while keeping old trees alive, limiting the chances of a mega-blaze and reducing competition for water.

Coniferous forests in America’s Southwest feeling the heat. Click To Tweet

McDowell says such practices could ultimately buy more time for our southwest forests while we address the root causes of global warming.

Reporting credit: Daisy Simmons/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Pine tree branch photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Multi-Scale Predictions of Massive Conifer Mortality Due to Chronic Temperature Rise
Scientists Say Climate Change Could Cause A ‘Massive’ Tree Die-off in the U.S. Southwest
Climate Change Killing Trees Off At Alarming Rates

Topics: Species & Ecosystems