Coast redwoods. You've seen them as the lush, giant trees on the fictional forest moon of Endor
in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
But here on planet Earth in California and Oregon, coast redwoods are very real and equally huge -- and they're feeling the heat from a different sort of phantom menace.
Global climate change, of course, is a topic of investigation for many scientists. And old-growth forests in the American West are already exhibiting impacts from rising temperatures.
"Old-growth forests across the western U.S. are already responding to a warming climate by showing increased mortality rates," says forest ecologist Phil van Mantgem
, one of WERC's lead scientists at the Redwood Field Station
in Arcata, California. A 2009 study
published in Science
coauthored by van Mantgem documented this trend
A recent article
in the National Park Service's Klamath Kaleidoscope
newsletter features van Mantgem's latest monitoring effort to investigate whether redwoods and other common species in the Klamath region are also experiencing climate change effects.
A collaborative effort by USGS, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Southern Oregon University ecologists will install 2-acre monitoring plots in old-growth forests at these regional parks:
- Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
- Oregon Caves National Monument
- Crater Lake National Park
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Redwood National Park
Data developed from these plots will document any changes to local tree populations over time, likely including species such as redwoods, Douglas fir
, white fir, incense cedar and sugar pine
"This information will be extremely useful for resource managers,” says van Mantgem
. "If our old-growth forests -- essentially our reference conditions for restoration -- are found to be changing under our feet, it sends a strong signal that we really need to consider our management activities in the context of climate change."
-- Ben Young Landis
Quotes and additional reporting courtesy of National Park Service.
Redwoods image credit: Redwood National Park