PINEMAP – southern pine and global warming

Global warming will create winners and losers. Among the losers are inhabitants of low islands. Southern pine forests look like winners, based on current climate models.
I learned some details from Dr. Tim Martin, who had worked on PINEMAP, a series of projects designed to study the effects of warming on forests and their possible role in mitigation of climate change.

Productivity in southern pine forests will rise with the projected temperature increase and elevated levels of CO2. Studies of slash and loblolly pine indicate significantly more growth, with the greatest gains coming from the northern part of the range. Beyond that, we can basically move loblolly genetics north, planting the more southern sub-species can be planted farther north. This has already happened to some extent, since many of the nurseries are in the south. A threat comes to these forests from an unexpected source. The climate change models indicate that parts of the great plains will become drier and less able to support crops. The SE is expected to be warmer and as wet, maybe wetter. Agriculture might move back east. Forests are currently planted on land not in demand for agriculture. They might be priced out of the market. But that is longer off.

Of course, making predictions is always dangerous too far out. The climate models have not proved completely accurate up until now. It is better to have lots of options than go with just one plan. The challenge is that the trees we plant today will still be growing decades from now, so we have to do now based on the most likely scenarios with enough variation to keep options open.  

PINEMAP Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaptation project (PINEMAP) is one of three Coordinated Agricultural Projects funded in 2011 by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). PINEMAP focuses on the 20 million acres of…