Coastal Redwoods May Experience Massive Change in Climate with Rising Temperatures

First Posted: Oct 17, 2015 10:21 AM EDT

A warmer future with normal rainfall on California's coast may leave coastal redwoods with a significantly different climate. Scientists have taken a closer look at climate models and have found that these redwood forests may be in danger from rising temperatures.

Fourteen redwood parts are located south of San Francisco Bay, including Big Basin Redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park south of Carmel, and Garrapata State Park between Carmel and Big Sur.

"With warmer climate forecast for more than half the coast redwood range in the next 10 to 15 years, we are eager for research that helps identify those areas that are the most sensitive to climate change," said Paul Ringgold, Chief Program Officer for San Francisco-based Save the Redwoods League, in a news release. "These key findings help us better understand the future impacts of climate change and how to manage for these impacts on our redwood forests."

In this latest study, the researchers used historical climate extremes as indicators of short- and medium-term changes in future climate and modeled coast redwoods' geographic distribution in the smallest discernible detail.

"Redwoods will still exist in the most vulnerable areas, while continued research on changing redwood bioclimate will help us identify and address redwood forest regeneration challenges," said Ringgold. "Moreover, locally unique weather patterns such as fog may influence projected climate trends in the future. Coast redwoods have endured climatic changes over thousands of years. We are encouraged by our RCCI research, which shows that redwood trees continue to grow, even under warmer conditions, and will thrive further north into Oregon."

The findings are published in the journal Global Change Biology.

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