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North Central CASC-supported researchers examine the rate of new pinyon-juniper growth against juniper mortality in the western U.S to understand how juniper tree populations are changing in response to climate change.

Pinyon-juniper woodlands are a staple ecosystem across the western U.S. Not only do they provide habitat for a variety of wildlife and recreational land for outdoor enthusiasts, but they are also a key player in balancing water storage, runoff and erosion. In a North Central CASC-supported study recently published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, researchers studied both the mortality and new-growth rate of pinyon-juniper tree species to determine how well these trees are adapting to a warmer climate.  

Though four of the five species they studied were found to be in decline, they found the driest and warmest locations were experiencing the greatest declines in pinyon-juniper populations. For recording new pinyon-juniper growth, the research team developed a new approach to model new growth rates across different areas, and then combined that data with mortality rates to obtain an accurate representation of how pinyon-juniper species populations are changing under different climate conditions.  

The goal of the project is to better understand the vulnerability of future pinyon-juniper woodlands to climate change so that resource managers might be able to prepare for and direct possible range shifts.  

This work is supported by the North Central CASC project, “Determining Successful Management and Restoration Strategies for Pinyon-Juniper Communities in the Face of Changing Climate and Wildfire”. 

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