On the mountain slopes of the western United States, climate can play a major role in determining which tree communities will thrive in the harshest conditions, according to new work from Carnegie’s Leander Anderegg and University of Washington’s Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.
Their findings, published in Ecology Letters, are an important step in understanding how forest growth will respond to a climate altered by human activity.
As researchers try to anticipate how climate change will affect forest ecosystems, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence how forest habitats change over time–including both environmental conditions and competition for resources. One of the oldest ecological principles asserts that competition between trees will constrain growth under mild conditions and climate will constrain growth under harsh conditions.
“This question has moved from the realm of academic theory to a critical practical consideration for land managers, who are trying to determine how the ranges of different tree species will shift,” said Anderegg. “So, we wanted to test the theory across a large scale.”