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Is Global Warming Putting Pennsylvania Trees in Trouble?

August 3, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Scientists in British Columbia are taking trees from some areas and transplanting them to colder climates, concerned about the effects global warming may have on them. Daniel Devlin, Pennsylvania's state forester, says the jury is still out on whether the practice would make sense here.

Pennsylvania's climate, as it stands now, produces a relatively stable home for the trees that call it home, Devlin says.

"Pennsylvania is situated where we are the northern extent of a lot of southern species, and we are the southern extent of a lot of northern species. So we're kind of a ground where north and south meet, in terms of vegetation."

Researchers now involved in the practice some call "tree swapping" say trees can be sensitive to even slight climate changes - they want to make sure the trees they're moving have a climate in which they will thrive. There is a concern about how the transplanted species may affect the trees already present, as well.

Devlin says unless temperature shifts become more exaggerated, Pennsylvania trees aren't likely to show the effects of global warming in the near future. He adds that it's unclear right now whether Pennsylvania would be a good home in years to come for southern species of trees in need of a cooler climate.

"To move something from a more southern climate up to the north at this point in time is a little bit premature. I'm not sure if it would be a good test case, if you will, or if it would do well up here."

Devlin says there should be close monitoring of how the 'visitor' trees affect those growing on their home field.

"Although the ecosystems have been changing constantly, you are introducing something that isn't now part of that ecosystem. So you would have to think about that as well."

Additional information is available from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, 717-783-5109.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA