The data is clear—climate change is very much real, and the effects it is having on the various aspects of our ecosystem are far-reaching, complex, and in dire need of more attention and research.
Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency work hard to understand whether or not droughts, wildfires, and other phenomena can be traced either in part or in totality to climate change.
The answer is always different depending upon the biome, region, or even the year, and the same could be said when considering the impact climate change has had on the temperate deciduous forest biomes both at home and aboard.
And while the term may not be one you’re very familiar with, if you live in the eastern United States, there’s a high chance you live within one of these forests.
Knowing the sort of impact climate change has on these regions is highly valuable, which is why we’ve taken the time to understand the effects of climate change on temperate deciduous forests, what we can learn from, and what we may be to do to stop or lessen the negative effects.
What’s a Temperate Deciduous Forest?
image via Pixabay
As we’ve said, much of the United States may be living within a temperate deciduous forest without even knowing it.
These types of forests are defined by the following traits:
- Rapidly changing temperature
- A moderate amount of rainfall
- Trees that change color or lose leaves due to seasonal change
- Modest plant life, including lichen, moss, and wildflowers
Of course, there are many more nuanced traits of these forests that you may or may not be familiar with, but these overarching traits are what helps scientists determine and identify these regions as separate from others.
One of the easiest tells of this type of forest is entirely visual. Do the trees in your neighborhood change color during the seasons? If so, it is a majority of the trees or just many of the trees?
Asking these types of questions may lead you to an understanding of whether or not you live within one of these forests. While there are often a small number of trees in a region that adjust to the season, in many parts of the country, such as the Pacific Northwest, trees look the same no matter what time of year it is.
Where Are The Temperate Deciduous Forests Located?
image via Pixabay
Where are the Temperate Deciduous Forests Located?
We’ve already mentioned that if you live in the United States, and specifically the eastern portion of it, there’s a high chance that you live in or near a forest such as this.
According to NASA, these types of forests are especially prevalent in the United States on the right side of the Mississippi River. They can be found heading upward in eastern America and into Canada as well, where Provinces such as Nova Scotia or New Brunswick are covered in the forests that have spread northeastward from Maine.
However, these forests have been known to show up elsewhere in the world, and particularly around the same parallel. These forests often appear where rainfall is around 30 to 60 inches a year, and where temperature varies greatly, with hot summers and cold winters, alongside year-round precipitation.
The appearance of these forests in China, due to the above stipulations, is especially apparent. These forests can also be found across Europe, in places such as Germany, France, or Poland. These forests even extend into Russia to an extent, before the cold tundra biome takes over the region entirely.
Other pockets exist in places such as South America, New Zealand, and parts of Africa. These pockets are far smaller than the major sections that can be found in the United States, China, and Europe but are still worth recognizing due to the biome’s broad definition.
As you could see, the range of these forests is broad, and the effects climate change has on them is similarly broad—though rarely good.
The Effects of Climate Change
Climate Change as we know it today is far more complex than the simple heating of the earth. And while it is true that the global average temperature has been on the rise in the past hundred years, there is a range of effects that has on different biomes and parts of the world.
When it comes to these forests specifically, we can see the following effects:
Generally speaking, the polarization of precipitation is becoming an increasingly big issue. Climate change within these forests either reduces the amount of average rainfall given or increases it, depending upon the location of the forest.
This polarization means that there may be months where rain falls in large batches—causing flash flooding and posing a risk to the forest floor, which is made up of several different types of fauna that may be sensitive to such flooding.
Likewise, dry spells can have an impact. These types of forests are already used to dry spells—often in the colder season, which is a large reason why leaves are shed and regrown each year. However, as the dry season increases in length, droughts can begin and cause trees, as well as fauna, to die out.
This can cripple the entire eco-system—driving wildlife out of the area in search of more fertile land, which could exacerbate the effects. Likewise, if the temperature increases, the efficacy of photosynthesis decreases. This can be seen in places like the Mediterranean, where a drier climate coupled with global warming can cause the outbreak of deadly fires.
However, perhaps the biggest effect of climate change on these forests isn’t necessarily in the survival of the currently-thriving trees, but rather the viability of the next generation of trees.
These types of forests are relatively young in the grand scheme of plant life—holding far shorter lifespans than massive Douglas firs or redwood trees over on the west coast. This means that trees need to continuously grow, thrive, and die for the ecosystem to work.
In high droughts, budding trees will quickly die in not given the water and humidity that they need for effective photosynthesis. On the other end of the equation, in flash flooding, the roots of these trees will not have enough time to effectively set, and sapling can be washed away.
This is especially a problem in hilly or mountainous regions, such as in the eastern United States.
We also know that these overarching problems are just the surface of the influence and damage climate change is having on the ecosystem of such forests. More research is required, and studies are currently underway to help us better understand what sorts of problems we will continue to see as time moves forward.
image via Pixabay
With such bad news on the horizon, what sort of impact can we have on our environment that will lessen or reverse the effects of climate change on our favorite forests?
The answer is complex, highly political, and not always clear. In many cases, attempting to correct the problem can create entirely new problems. Carbon pollution specifically is wide-ranging, and even investing in green or recyclable products can have a negative impact due to the reliance on carbon in transportation and infrastructure.
What can be done, however, is work on the local level. Taking care of your local forest and ensuring that your lifestyle best matches with the greater good of the land around you is highly valuable.
We recommend asking tough questions about your lifestyle and seeing where your energy usage may be excessive or coming at the risk of others in your ecosystem.
There are no right or wrong answers, and while your actions may not single-handedly influence the future of these vast ecosystems, a cultural shift and perception of climate change will need to happen on the individual level. Your actions may be more impactful on others that you may have been expecting.
Even small steps, such as reading articles about the effects climate change has on biomes and ecosystems around you, can help spread awareness about this complex and life-changing issue.
While the jury is still out on much of the effects, as well as many of the causes of these changes, focus on the actions you can take rather than the actions that need to be taken by others.
These forests are the home to billions of people across the world, as well as untold billions of animals, plants, and other organisms. Taking a closer look at their future, as well as asking ourselves what we can to do preserve that future, is perhaps the best influence we can have on our rapidly changing environment.
And hopefully, with the right amount of effort and a little bit of change, these forests can remain our homes for years and years to come.