Pining away for climate change

Weathered Pinus contorta subsp. murrayana. Las...

Weathered Pinus contorta subsp. murrayana. Lassen Volcanic National Park, Tehama County, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the NIPCC report comes this study that suggests gloom and doom over pine forest growth suppression in the face of climate change is overwrought. The pine trees apparently have the tools within their genes to cope just fine.

Intraspecific Variation: Helping Species Survive Climate Change

Writing in Ecology and Evolution, Oney et al. (2013) note that species distribution modeling (SDM) is “an important tool to assess the impact of global environmental change.” However, they say that many species exhibit ecologically relevant intraspecific variation, but that “few studies have analyzed its relevance for species distribution modeling.” And, therefore, in an attempt to add to those few studies and enlarge upon their significance, the four researchers compared the results of three SDM techniques as applied to the highly variable lodgepole pine tree (Pinus contorta).

First, they employed a conventional approach called MaxEnt to model the tree as a single species, based on presence-absence observations. Second, they used MaxEnt to model each of the three most prevalent subspecies independently, after which they combined their projected distributions. And third, they used a universal growth transfer function (UTF) to incorporate intraspecific variation utilizing provenance trial tree growth data.

The end result of these various operations was that under future anticipated climatic conditions, the different projections of lodgepole pine habitat suitability significantly diverged. In particular, as they put it, “when the species’ intraspecific variability was acknowledged, the species was projected to better tolerate climatic change as related to suitable habitat without migration.”

In light of this finding, Oney et al. concluded that “models derived from within-species data produce different and better projections, and coincide with ecological theory,” leading them to also conclude that “intraspecific variation may buffer against adverse effects of climate change,” which ultimately implies that many climate-alarmist horror stories of various species extinctions occurring in response to projected global warming are likely enormously overstated, as in totally false.

Reference
Oney, B., Reineking, B., O’Neill, G. and Kreyling, J. 2013. Intraspecific variation buffers projected climate change impacts on Pinus contorta. Ecology and Evolution 3: 437-449.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586652/

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38 thoughts on “Pining away for climate change

  1. I quit reading at the word ‘Modeling’. Are there any scientists left that actually make observations in real world, rather than relying on models?

  2. Is it really a possibility that plants that have been around as these trees have might actually be able to adapt to climate change? Does this mean that there is also a possibility that animals, with their much shorter life cycles, could also adapt? Gee Whiz!!! Who would have ever guessed?

  3. I THINK I’m one of just a few foresters who regularly follow WUWT, so I guess I should stop following and contribute on a subject on which I have a little bit of knowledge and experience.

    Trees, at least in NA (Pinus contorta is a NA species) are long-lived, sedentary (they can’t run away from the slings and arrows of bugs, disease, and inclement weather), wind pollinated, outcrossing higher plants. Species ranges vary in size and extent (Pinus contorta has a very extensive range). Essentially all of our commercially important species have large continuous ranges, which enables tremendous genetic buffering against environmental insults.

    Trees are known to have very large genomes, much bigger than humans. This makes sense of course, because trees live for decades and centuries, and must grow, thrive, and reproduce successfully in the face of everything that nature throws at them. This isn’t true for all species, and those that have more dissected and limited ranges have less genetic ability to compete. Thus, we find species forced into tougher environments (Pinus aristata, e.g.) where they essentially have no other competitors other than weather.

    Finally, one more observation (for now…). How many out there are at all concerned about the extinction of spruce and fir on the Gulf Coast? At the height of the Wisconsin Glaciation, spruce and fir survived along the Gulf Coast of the US, an area now dominated by Pinus elliottii. Compare that restricted range to the continent wide distributions of spruce and fir today.

    I’m not worried about trees ability to withstand changes in climate. They always have, and they always will until the sun flames out.

  4. I get a bit nervous when I see a headline that includes the phrase “Helping Species Survive…” Sometime this “help” can have unintended consequences, especially with species that have survived for eons without any special help.

  5. Man’s influence by factors such as fire suppression would appear to have a far more significant impact than through emissions of CO₂

  6. Species distribution modelling. Hey Bubbas of the Climate Collective, get off your fat keesters and do something real.

  7. “…many species exhibit ecologically relevant intraspecific variation…” Why can’t they just say ‘adaptable’? Trees are adaptable. But we knew that already, didn’t we?

  8. The planet’s climate has been changing for as long as there have been plants. Is it any wonder that plants have the ability to adapt to change?

  9. But wait a minute, if AGW CC CD etc. forces the lodgepoles to go all contorta on us, how will the Indians put up their “historic” Tee pees and Lodges? The White Man strikes again!

  10. @LKMiller
    First, there may be more foresters here than you think. I am one and have a number of colleagues who read WUWT at least once a week, some daily – you are in good company.
    I fully agree with your comments. Things may change, that’s what natural environments do, but the trees will be just fine.
    I am curious if you have noticed any wholesale loss of plantations in your part of the world? We have had a couple occurrences in Ontario, but talking to some of the old-timers this is nothing new. Photo’s are paraded around as an indicator of the impending doom, but it seems to me this is more likely an indicator of inappropriate seed transfer and/or artificially narrowed genetic variability than climate change.

  11. However, they say that many species exhibit ecologically relevant intraspecific variation, but that “few studies have analyzed its relevance for species distribution modeling.”

    LKMiller (aka treegyn1) says: @ August 29, 2013 at 5:50 am

    …. Essentially all of our commercially important species have large continuous ranges, which enables tremendous genetic buffering against environmental insults.

    Trees are known to have very large genomes, much bigger than humans. This makes sense of course, because trees live for decades and centuries, and must grow, thrive, and reproduce successfully in the face of everything that nature throws at them. This isn’t true for all species….

    Finally, one more observation (for now…). How many out there are at all concerned about the extinction of spruce and fir on the Gulf Coast? At the height of the Wisconsin Glaciation, spruce and fir survived along the Gulf Coast of the US, an area now dominated by Pinus elliottii. Compare that restricted range to the continent wide distributions of spruce and fir today.

    I’m not worried about trees ability to withstand changes in climate. They always have, and they always will until the sun flames out.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    A couple of comments. (First thanks for the info)
    One of my big problems with GMO crops, aside from horizontal gene transfer ( second link ) is the lack of genetic diversity. This is not just in GMO but in a lot of other food species.

    Native birds might restock poultry industry’s genetic stock
    ….Purdue University animal sciences professor Bill Muir was part of an international research team that analyzed the genetic lines of commercial chickens used to produce meat and eggs around the world. Researchers found that commercial birds are missing more than half of the genetic diversity native to the species, possibly leaving them vulnerable to new diseases and raising questions about their long-term sustainability….

    He said it’s also important to preserve non-commercial breeds and wild birds for the purpose of safeguarding genetic diversity and that interbreeding additional species with commercial lines might help protect the industry.

    The research, led by Hans Cheng of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is in Monday’s (Nov. 3) early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml.

    As far as trees, and other C3 plants are concern the lack of adequate CO2 is a heck of a lot more of a long term problem than CAGW. see Carbon starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, southern California

    SAVE A TREE BURN COAL!

  12. MJB says:
    August 29, 2013 at 6:40 am

    I’m in Oregon, and no, we are not seeing anything out of the ordinary with plantations.

    BTW, I began my career in Ontario, working for the MNR in Timmins, 1980-83.

  13. Just checked the Aug.1 blog on forest fires

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/01/michigan-state-claim-extreme-wildfires-likely-fueled-by-climate-change/

    and will add a little:
    1) Alaska has a near reciprocal relation to the Lower 48 in recent burned acreage history:

    http://wildfiretoday.com/2010/12/10/2010-fewest-wildfire-acres-burned-since-1998/#more-11250

    (compliments to Bill Gabbert)
    2) Canadian fires have been decreasing in number and total acreage since 1989:

    http://cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/en_CA/nfdb/poly

    3) The number of U.S. fires has steadily decreased while total acreage burn increased until 2006.

    The graphs illustrate through data that in fact it is forest policy rather than climate change that have brought on bigger fires in recent decades, as the trend is not seen in wild northern forests.
    –AGF

  14. I may be wrong, but I got the impression that their modeling was a mathematical construct based on actual observations over time. Not a virtual construct based on input assumptions. If that’s the case, then the criticism of it being “only a model” isn’t valid.

  15. I’ve got a District Ranger friend who often complains that the alleged “environmentalists” keep trying to tell her what “natural” is. In the latest episode, the Forest Service’s fuel reduction program might have just saved The Dalles, Or., water supply system close to the Columbia River, as well as some coveted big Ponderosa, from destruction by a fire there. The Forest Service cleared some surface and cut low branches off the low altitude Ponderosa which grow there. She says the fire slowed when it hit the reduced fuel area and the Ponderosa might have been spared. How utterly “unnatural” of them!

  16. I wonder if their “MaxEnt” utilizes the Maximum Entropy Principle, first formalized by my statistics guru Edwin Thompson Jaynes. I enjoy his practical illustration of MaxEnt in the difference between Bayesian naive priors, subjective (p=0 or p=1) and objective (p=0.5). The proper objective naive prior maximizes entropy by not falsely claiming knowledge not in hand.

  17. Trees are very resilient but cold is more deadly. About 9000 years ago trees reached the Arctic Ocean coastline and remained during the Holocene Optimum. As temperatures began to cool the trees retreated and are now several hundred kilometers further south.

    HIking the high elevation in the Sierra Nevada you can see ancient tree remnants. A 1997 study in Sequoia National Park found that “Tree-line elevation was higher than at present throughout most of the last 3500 years.

    In the Ural Mountains (which divides Asia from Europe), researchers found thousands of more than 500-year-old dead trees that grew before the LIA struck. In contrast, remnants of any new trees that could have sprouted during the LIA were almost entirely absent. However the ancient rootstocks often remain and allow trees to suddenly emerge whenever local conditions are mild enough to promote growth. For example the world’s oldest-known living tree, a Norway Spruce, was recently discovered in Sweden. Although the living 13-foot high trunk emerged relatively recently, it had sprouted from the same rootstock that has persisted for nearly 10,000 years. Scientists found four different “generations” of above-ground remains with ages that dated 375, 5660, 9000 and 9550 years old. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080414-oldest-tree.html

  18. We assume that “species’ intraspecific variation” means that intrinsic genetic differences affect all organisms’ response to environmental changes in ways analogous to resisting a disease. Do tell!– so AGW’s blinkered ideologues have of a sudden discovered Mendelian genetics?

    Now that “cold is warm” and vice versa, the Kevin Trenberths of this world have also posited Perpetual Motion: Rising/falling deep-ocean temperature differentials produce heat-energy from nothing in the Marianna’s Trench.

    At what point does one call out these preposterous frauds, re-directing their Big Government rent monies to profound socio-cultural exegeses of Gen-Y twerking skills?

  19. Eco worriers should stop worrying. A retreating glacier in Alaska reveals tree stumps from the Medieval Cooler Period. / sarc

    “Retreating Alaskan Glacier Reveals Remains Of Medieval Forest”
    “….Park Service personnel recently discovered evidence of a buried forest dating back to at least 1170 AD high in the Forelands near the current glacier’s edge….”
    August 26, 2013

    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/retreating-alaskan-glacier-reveals-remains-of-medieval-forest/

  20. so…..tell me again why plant nurseries sell these plants….to be planted in people’s yards….outside of their “native” habitat

  21. Jim Steele says: @ August 29, 2013 at 7:17 am

    ….For example the world’s oldest-known living tree, a Norway Spruce, was recently discovered in Sweden. Although the living 13-foot high trunk emerged relatively recently, it had sprouted from the same rootstock that has persisted for nearly 10,000 years. Scientists found four different “generations” of above-ground remains with ages that dated 375, 5660, 9000 and 9550 years old. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080414-oldest-tree.html

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Well that certainly gives a pretty good dating of the Holocene Climate Optimums doesn’t it!

  22. Gail Combs says:
    August 29, 2013 at 8:29 am (replying to)

    Jim Steele says: @ August 29, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Scientists found four different “generations” of above-ground remains with ages that dated 375, 5660, 9000 and 9550 years old.

    And the Little Ice Age, for that matter.

  23. Latitude says:
    August 29, 2013 at 7:50 am

    so…..tell me again why plant nurseries sell these plants….to be planted in people’s yards….outside of their “native” habitat
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
    So they can make money.

    I found it amusing that the colored morning glories my neighbor up north so carefully planted grow wild here in the south. Southerners call it bindweed and hate them. I get rid of them by turning the goats loose on them or spraying them with a herbicide. (Large amounts are toxic to livestock due to alkaloids.)

  24. Gail Combs says:
    August 29, 2013 at 8:49 am
    ===
    LOL…yep

    So they have this great ‘study’ to discover that these plants will grow outside of their natural habitat….when all they really had to do was take a drive through suburbia

  25. Pinus contorta is a fascinating species but perhaps not a good subject for this type of study. P. contorta is widespread but actually has a highly discontinuous range with many isolated populations. Except at northern tree line and on the high elevation ash beds of eastern Oregon and the greater Yellowstone area , populations tend to be colonizers where other species cannot grow. Despite “intraspecific” variation, P. contorta somehow very effectively RESISTS speciation in its isolated populations. Can resistance to speciation be an adaptation to prevent isolated populations from adapting to temporary local conditions for the benefit of the species as a whole? P. contorta presents major challenges to the “selfish gene” theory.

  26. “intraspecific variation”, local “gene pools” … Yep. Commonly observed here in the “Dry Tropics”.
    Livistona australis, paperbarks, casuarinas sourced in the local area grow ok and will self-replicate if given a chance. Ostensibly the “same” sub-species sourced from nearby don’t do so well. On the other hand, we have the foxtail palm, originally found only in Cape Melville National Park and listed as endangered. They struggle if planted singly on traffic roundabouts and the like. Plant three together, they do better. Plant them in an artificial canyon eg between 3-storey buildings, they shoot up to the light.

  27. Take a look around you. Are any humans you know exactly identical to one another?
    Or are any animals you know exactly identical to one another?
    Do you know of those amongst your friends and associates those who like and thrive in the cold and those who like and thrive in the heat?
    The variations in genetic adaptability is universal throughout the planet’s bio -sphere.
    So the variations in that genetic adaptability and the consequent natural selection from out of a species for those specimens that can adapt to a particular set of changing or changed natural circumstances is a universal attribute of life on this planet.

    The cultists of global warming alarmism can in their ignorance and with their closed minds and rigid ideology, only imagine a fixed, rigid, inflexible, closed and limited in all aspects group of life forms on this planet. They are beyond imagining that any life forms might be able to adapt and adapt rapidly and yet that very immense specie’s adaptability, possibly the greatest adaptability of any life form on this planet, stares back at them every time they look in a mirror or look at another of the Homo sapien species.

    Jim Steele says:
    August 29, 2013 at 7:17 am
    _____________
    Another such example here in Australia of the ability of what was assumed to be totally dead Australian outback River Gum Trees to re-shoot and start re-growing.
    About a hundred or more years ago in more northern and very dry regions of inland South Australia [ the driest state in the driest continent ] a storm rain fed creek changed course to a new course some many kilometres distance away.
    The great River Gums that line these outback creeks eventually died without the occasional storm fed run of the creek.

    Recently the creek for reasons totally unknown, reverted back to it’s original course.
    With the new runs of water a few of those old, dead trees suddenly started to throw out new shoots from what seemed totally dead and slowly rotting trunks and branches and started re-growing.
    Nature is far, far more resilient and adaptable than the alarmists are ever capable of admitting or recognising.
    Often due to the fact that recognising such natural resilience would seriously impact on their alarmist agenda based on creating fear of change and creating fear as as an object in itself.

    The real problem in our modern society is that with over half the world’s population now living in cities of 100,000 population or more there is now a rapidly increasing lack of real down to earth knowledge and appreciation of just what Nature really is and just how tough and adaptable and resilient Nature outside of the highly rigid, artificial, mostly man made environment of the cities, actually is.
    Our problem is not Nature’s adaptability or the way Nature acts and behaves and reacts.
    It is in the mentally rigid picture of what Nature supposedly is and how Nature is to supposedly react to and it’s supposed inability to adapt that is being developed within the highly artificial man-made environment of the cities.
    And that is a developing and major problem that politically and socially which will create immense problems for both Nature itself as attempts will be made to force natural changes and events into conforming with a rigid conformist ideology based around what Nature is supposed to look like and conform to according to the city based activists and ideologists.

    When Nature refuses or fails to conform to this idealised vision then somebody must be at fault and scape goats will be sought and found. and they are most likely to come from the decreasing minorities and numbers in the rural regions of so many nations.
    And immense and increasing problems for those who dwell outside of the cities and are the food producers and food providers and resource developers. will become a fact of life as the ignorance and complete out of touch with natural reality becomes a major attribute of the city based activists and ideologist who will increasingly try to enforce their idealised vision of Nature onto both Nature itself and onto those who live in, amongst and use Nature in their production and industrial pursuits.

  28. In Georgia pine trees are the weeds of the tree family. You cannot get rid of them, the wind blows them over on peoples houses, and encroaching pine forests are taking over any piece of property that is not buzz-cut weekly.

    So, the heck with pine trees. They are in no danger of disappearing. Indeed, they are like cockroaches. They seem to thrive everywhere.

  29. ROM. Jim Steele,
    When we lived in New England I had two wild AMERICAN Chestnuts in the back woods that managed to stay alive. One of them bloomed every year and had chestnuts. (I wish I had know at that time about the The American Chestnut Foundation.

  30. “With the new runs of water a few of those old, dead trees suddenly started to throw out new shoots … .” (ROM at 4:43pm on 8/29/13)

    That brought tears to my eyes. Even when all seems dead and finished, there is yet — hope.

    There are so many metaphors for Life and Truth in creation. Amazing. Thank you for sharing that.

    If trees can come back after being blown away by a volcano, they can survive anything the elements dish out:

    Mt. St. Helens, 26 years later…

  31. Dudley Dobinson says:
    August 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released–chart-prove-it.html

    Off topic Met Office Hadley Centre has released very quitely latest temperatures through August 2012 and 0.17C previous increase in temperatures has now gone. Dead flat since 1997. See above link for better coverage.

    That article is from October of last year. It’s been well covered here starting with http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/13/report-global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago/

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