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Tree Range Shifts

Paper Reviewed
Malis, F., Kopecky, M., Petrik, P., Vladovic, J.,Merganic, J. and Vida, T. 2016. Life stage, not climate change, explains observed tree range shifts. Global Change Biology 22: 1904-1914.

Introducing their work, Malis et al. (2016) write that "ongoing climate change is expected to shift tree species distribution." But they also note that "the distribution of tree life stages could differ within the lifespan of trees." And, therefore, they tested this hypothesis with data obtained from 1435 plots scattered across the Western Carpathians of Slovakia in East Central Europe that were resurveyed after more than three decades. And what did this monumental effort reveal?

Malis et al. (2016) report that despite climate warming, the tree species distribution of any life stage did not shift directionally upward along an elevation gradient between the times of the various surveys. Instead, they found that "the observed range shifts among tree life stages were more consistent with ontogenetic differences in the species' environmental requirements than with responses to recent climate change."

Consequently, the six scientists from the Slovak and Czech Republics were forced to conclude that in the cases of long-lived trees, "distributional differences recently observed worldwide may not reflect climate change but rather the different environmental requirements of tree life stages." And in light of this fact, they conclude that "recently observed distributional differences [do] not reflect climate change but rather the different environmental requirements of tree life stages."

Posted 2 September 2016