November 3rd, 2011 by

Credit: DaniBelle2906/Flickr

Migration. For me, this word evokes an image of that magnificent flying “v” that birds (and certain hockey teams) employ to head to warmer waters in the fall and to head back north in the spring. But migration is not reserved for those of us with legs, wings, fins and flippers. Forests migrate, too! The big question, though, is will they outrun climate change?

In a 2005 report, scientists predicted that the rate of climate change would outpace the migration rate of most plant species. Unfortunately for the trees, it appears that they were right.

According to a new study published this week by Duke University and the USDA Forest Service, only 21 percent of forests are migrating northward, which is bad news in the face of climate change. Experts predict that as temperatures rise, the soil that forests are currently rooted in will become too hot and dry for seedlings to take hold and prosper — they need the moister, cooler soil that will be found at increasingly higher elevations and in northern climates. What to do, what to do? Enter AMAT.

AM-what? AMAT, or the Assisted Migration Adaptation Trial created by British Columbia Forest Service researchers with the USDA Forest Service, is taking 48 seed sources from 15 tree species and planting them at 48 field locations from northern California to central Yukon. The plan is to discover which species and seeds will be best equipped to survive temperature increases and, therefore, climate change. The project began in 2009 and is expected to complete in 2013. Scientists hope to use the results to better pick and plan tree planting projects in the future.

As Katrina mentioned earlier this week, climate change is a scary proposition, so I’m thrilled to see us working with our North American brethren to help our forests survive. Weather doesn’t recognize countries or their boundaries, so if we’re going to protect our land and resources, we have to work together. Plus, it’s good to get on the Canadians good side because one day, we might all have to follow through on those jokes about moving to Canada.