Can you imagine Canada without the Maple Tree? Can you imagine America without the Pine Tree? Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel say such thinking is not so off-the-wall.
In a report recently published in the journal Ecology Letters, the Israeli research team found that trees relying on the wind to disperse their seeds may be at risk of extinction in Israel, North America and Eurasia.
According to the research, trees such as pines and maples will be unable to spread at a pace that can cope with expected climate changes.
Prof. Ran Nathan, head of Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Science at the Hebrew University, his student, Nir Horvitz, and researchers from abroad, say their research needs to be taken seriously.
“It is important for those responsible for forest management in many parts of the world to understand that nature alone will not do the job,” said Prof. Nathan. “Human action will be required to ensure in a controlled manner the minimization of unexpected detrimental byproducts, and that those trees which are very important for global ecological processes will not become extinct.”
The new research is based on a unique, fully mechanistic model developed to predict trends in plant spread. The researchers say this model is the first to consider how projected changes in biological and environmental factors would impact tree spread in future environments.
Trees with wind-dispersed seeds are common in forests of North America, Israel and Eurasia. The current research points to the need to take human action to assure the dispersal of the seeds of these trees within the next half century, in the wake of the expected climate changes.
Morevoer, research showed that the faster spread predicted for these trees in the future will be much slower than the expected shift of temperature ranges, and as such these tree species might not be able to withstand this climate change.
“This will raise extinction risk of many tree populations because they will not be able to track the shift in their natural habitats which currently supply them with favorable conditions for establishment and reproduction,” said Prof. Nathan. “As a result, the composition of different tree species in future forests is expected to change and their areas might be reduced, the goods and services that these forests provide for man might be harmed, and wide-ranging steps will have to be taken to ensure seed dispersal in a controlled, directed manner.”
Prof. Nathan added: “These forests are important in many ways to man, including the supply of wood, the safeguarding of water quality, and the provision of recreation and tourism facilities.”