Forests Are Adapting to Climate Change—For Now

Tree Die Off Has Led to More Resistant Thickets

The warm sunshine streams through the canopies of two blue oaks in central California. | Credit: LEANDER ANDEREGG

Forests across the nation are adapting to hotter, drier climates brought on by global warming, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from UC Santa Barbara, the University of Utah, and the U.S. Forest Service found that since 2000, warming climates have caused less “drought-tolerant” trees to die, resulting in forests that are more drought resistant overall.

Lead author Anna Trugman, an assistant Geography professor at UCSB, called these results “hopeful” for forests in the short-term, including forests in the Santa Barbara area. But if temperatures keep rising — and they’re expected to, Trugman said — it could spell trouble for forests, especially in California.

“We don’t want to lose more trees,” said Trugman. “In Santa Barbara, this winter was particularly dry, and that killed a lot of trees.”

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