Research: Climate Change
You are here
Climate change may have profound effects on mountain forests and alpine tundra, and the benefits they provide to surrounding communities such as water, recreation, and forage. Warming of 2-5 °C is expected in the Rocky Mountains over the next 50 years.
Since 2009, a warming experiment run on Niwot Ridge by the University of California, Merced has been experimentally determining what this warming will mean for treeline and alpine ecosystems. The project, run by Professor Lara Kueppers, uses infrared heat lamps to simulate the effect of warming on the establishment of limber pine and Engelmann spruce seedlings at the upper and lower zones of the subalpine forest, and in the alpine tundra. They aim to learn whether warming will alter where subalpine forest may grow in the future. In addition, the researchers are studying the influence of warming on alpine vegetation and soils.
To date, the results have demonstrated that warming accelerates snowmelt and dries the soils. Earlier snowmelt leads to earlier germination of both limber pine and Engelmann spruce. Heating also appears to strongly increase spruce seedling mortality and slightly increase pine seedling mortality. The long-term effects of warming on seedling establshment continue to be evaluated.
Over the past decade the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendrocthonus ponderosae) has killed millions of pine trees from New Mexico to the Yukon Territory, as a result of an unprecedented explosion in their numbers. The causes behind the beetle outbreak has been the topic of...