Climate change: trees adaptation is unlikely to guarantee its survival

Climate change: trees adaptation is unlikely to guarantee its survival

According to scientists, given the rapid pace of climate change, trees adaptation with such long generation times appears unlikely to enable persistence in most species.


The actual drought level and global warming are threatening many species mainly flora where trees struggle to survive, but predicting the damage that cause these changes is complicated.

Understanding how the diversity of tree species will be affected by future droughts requires a detailed knowledge of how the functions of different species interact with their environment. Temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration are fundamental elements that affect the water relations of all tree species, and the rapid rise in both of these potent environmental drivers has the potential to markedly change the way trees behave during drought season.

The future of many forest systems will be dictated by how these atmospheric changes interact with tree function. Hence, any increase in the rate of soil drying caused by elevated temperatures is likely to lead to increasing damage to standing forests during drought.

 Forests protection, remaining hope to save the planet

The extremely rapid pace of climate change caused enormous instability into the mortality rates of global forests and most models predict major damage to forests in the next century if current climate trajectories are not ameliorated.
Debate still remains as to the magnitude of stabilizing forces, such as tree acclimation and positive CO2-associated effects on water use, but most observational data suggest that forest decline is well under way.


Future improvements in physiological understanding and dynamic-monitoring are needed to improve the prediction of trees survival ; however, changes in community structure and ecology are crucial.

  • According to Timothy J. Brodribb and his team, the avoidance of local extinction in tree species could be possible by two non–mutually exclusive mechanisms:
    Migration tracking the ecological niches to which they are adapted.
  • Adaptation and acclimation to novel climate conditions and persistence within their current range.

Species distribution models based on climatic envelopes have predicted pronounced range shifts in tree populations over the next century; however, this mechanism of survival is contingent on the capacity of species to achieve rapid migration, and few tree species are likely to disperse rapidly enough to keep pace with the current rate of climate warming.

The persistence of tree populations exposed to increased aridity in their current range will depend on adaptation and acclimation to higher intensities of plant water stress.
Given the rapid pace of climate change, adaptation of organisms with such long generation times appears unlikely to enable persistence in most species.

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