Species Range Shifts in a Warming World
Ettinger, A.K. and Lambers, J.H.R. 2013. Climate isn't everything: Competitive interactions and variation by life stage will also affect range shifts in a warming world. American Journal of Botany 100: 1344-1355.
In describing their findings the two researchers report that "growth was sensitive to heavy snowpack and cold temperatures at high elevation upper limits (treeline)," but that it "was poorly explained by climate in low elevation closed-canopy forests." And they found that "competitive effects on growth were more important for saplings than adults."
Ettinger and Lambers ultimately concluded, all things considered, that "range shifts under climate change will differ at leading vs. trailing edges." At the treeline, for example, they say that "warmer temperatures will lead to increased growth and likely to range expansion." But they suggest that "climate change will have less dramatic effects in low elevation closed-canopy forest communities, where growth is less strongly limited by climate, especially at young life stages." And merging these two observations, suggests the very real possibility that global warming could lead, not just to a geographical shifting of ranges, but to the actual expansion of the sizes of the ranges of certain tree species. And that is good news for nature!
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