Tree line is getting higher on some of California's Sierra Nevada peaks
Warmer weather in California over the past five years, along with a lack of rain, has caused a host of changes to the state environment. California Governor Jerry Brown and other state politicians have enacted numerous laws in recent years that are working to combat the effects of hotter temperatures and drought conditions.
Recently, a group of scientists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife News (CDFW) released a report that examined how warmer temperatures in California are affecting the environment at higher elevations. They discovered that there has been a noticeable upward movement of trees in California's Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
The Sierra Nevada is a massive mountain range in California that runs approximately 400 miles north-to-south and about 70 miles east-to-west, and is home to the tallest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet.
In the study, scientists compared presence or absence of tree species in 381 recent random plots across the Sierra Nevada. Of 12 tree species with what the scientists termed "adequate sample sizes for analysis," three species showed marked changes -- a shifting toward higher, cooler elevations. Red fir, western white pine, and mountain hemlock all showed obvious signed of upward elevation movement toward cooler temperatures.
Mountain hemlock may be in danger
According to the study, one high-elevation species that could be in particular danger due to warming temperatures is mountain hemlock. Research showed that locating mountain hemlock at elevations at which it was formerly found became increasingly difficult. The scientists theorize that those elevations may no longer be cool enough for the species.
According to the CDFW, "this study foreshadows how climate warming may significantly alter entire habitats for multiple species." The trickle-down effects of both the movement to higher elevations and the disappearance of some species remain to be seen, as some tree species that are shifting to higher elevations provide food and shelter for insects, birds and mammals, and also greatly contribute to the overall health of forest soil.