Title

Climate Change and Southwestern Conifers: How Resilient Are They?

Abstract

Climate change is already having a marked impact on the lifespan and growth range of many plant species. In the high-altitude desert climate of northern New Mexico, warming temperatures and diminishing rainfall have contributed to widespread and striking die-off of two conifer species: Pinus edulis (“piñon pine”) and Juniperus monosperma (“juniper”). Yet some individual trees are proving to be surprisingly resilient. My research aimed to uncover a mechanism for this resiliency: Are these trees able to alter their leaf area to sapwood area ratios (Al:As) in order to adapt to the increased temperature and diminishing precipitation? For 60 trees from an experimental site at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the answer is no. The trees do not alter their Al:As in response to induced climate change conditions, suggesting that the trees are reliant on another adaptation mechanism.

Faculty Sponsor

Susanne Altermann

Tracks

poster

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Location

Cordiner Hall

Presentation Type

Poster

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Climate Change and Southwestern Conifers: How Resilient Are They?

Cordiner Hall

Climate change is already having a marked impact on the lifespan and growth range of many plant species. In the high-altitude desert climate of northern New Mexico, warming temperatures and diminishing rainfall have contributed to widespread and striking die-off of two conifer species: Pinus edulis (“piñon pine”) and Juniperus monosperma (“juniper”). Yet some individual trees are proving to be surprisingly resilient. My research aimed to uncover a mechanism for this resiliency: Are these trees able to alter their leaf area to sapwood area ratios (Al:As) in order to adapt to the increased temperature and diminishing precipitation? For 60 trees from an experimental site at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the answer is no. The trees do not alter their Al:As in response to induced climate change conditions, suggesting that the trees are reliant on another adaptation mechanism.

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