May 20, 2017 - Energy & Environment

U.S. trees are following their Manifest Destiny

Elaine Thompson / AP

A new study shows that tree populations in the eastern United States are unexpectedly moving west, per The Atlantic.

  • What's expected: As the effects of climate change hit the East Coast, scientists expected to see the centers of populations for trees in that part of the country shift northward to compensate for rising temperatures.
  • What's happening: Some of the 86 species studied are indeed moving northward (about 55%), but about 65% are shifting westward as well.
  • The explanation: Climate change has caused far higher-than-normal precipitation in the Great Plains, so the trees are following the moisture west. But the scientists behind the study said that only explains 20 percent of the movement. Other possible causes: changes in land use, wildfires, new pests, and conservation efforts.
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