Beech trees overtaking Maine forests, worrying loggers and scientists
PORTLAND, Maine — Beech trees are dominating the woodlands of the northeastern United States as the climate changes, and that could be bad news for the forests and people who work in them, according to a group of scientists.
The scientists say the move toward beech-heavy forests is associated with higher temperatures and precipitation. They say their 30-year study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Ecology, is one of the first to look at such broad changes over a long time period in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.
The changes could have major negative ramifications for forest ecosystems and industries that rely on them, said Dr. Aaron Weiskittel, a University of Maine associate professor of forest biometrics and modeling and one of the authors.
Beech, often used for firewood, is of much less commercial value than some species of birch and maple trees that can be used to make furniture and flooring.
“There’s no easy answer to this one. It has a lot of people scratching their heads,” Weiskittel said. “Future conditions seem to be favoring the beech, and managers are going to have to find a good solution to fix it.”
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