September 25, 2007

Global Warming Effects on Trees Studied

U.S. researchers travel to Canada next spring to study simulated global warming involving about 2,000 sugar maple tree seedlings.

Northern Illinois University Professors Lesley Rigg and David Goldblum have been awarded a $260,000 National Science Foundation grant to simulate global warming on sugar maple seedlings now growing in Canada's Lake Superior Provincial Park.

The researchers will build rain-exclusion, temperature-controlled structures over the seedlings to simulate temperature increases and dryer conditions forecast for the next century.

Sugar maples -- the dominant tree species in the U.S. northeast -- thrive in cool, moist climates, with seeds germinating at about 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mature trees may be able to handle warming temperatures, but scientists need to determine whether the trees will be able to successfully reproduce and whether the species will be able to migrate northward to cooler climates, said Rigg.

Some researchers have suggested sugar maple trees, which now extend southward to Georgia, could disappear from the United States.

We expect that our experimental design Â… will capture conditions that the sugar maple will experience in the northern part of its range sometime in the next 100 years, Rigg said.

The study is to be completed in 2010.