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An unprecedented threat to Peru's cloud forests
Date:9/12/2013

have them going upslope faster than ever before, says Miles Silman, professor of Biology at Wake Forest University. Silman says plants are going to have to migrate around 3,000 feet to remain in equilibrium with the warming climate by 2100.

The problem with this is the trees can only go so far as higher elevation grasslands bar the path upslope. Unlike the cloud forest beneath it, Silman says the transition between trees and grassland, called an ecotone, is stationary over most of the landscape, and only barely moving in other places, even in the face of recorded temperature changes that should have moved it 200m higher. Silman says assuming no additional changes in climatic factors other than temperature, timberline would need to migrate around 900 meters in elevation to keep pace with the cloud forest beneath it. The results of their study show this would take 3,750 years in protected areas and 18,000 years in unprotected areas. Silman says scientists think that a combination of frequent human-set fires and cattle grazing in the grasslands, along with slow growth rates, likely explain a large part of it but aren't sure. What they do know, however, is that cloud forest trees can't go through or around the ecotone.

"Previous work we've done shows that the trees in the forest are migrating upwards, but this work shows the ecotone isn't," Silman says. "The ecotone presents a wall to species migration."

The Wake Forest team's research is the first to address rates of Andes timberline migration at high resolution. It consists of climate change projections based off computer modeling of photos and Quickbird satellite images of remote Cloud Forests in Peru's protected Manu National Park and unprotected surrounding areas. The photo data were collected by the United States Air Force's Aerial Survey teams during June, 1963, and digitized to 0.7 microns by the Peruvian Instituto Geographico Nacional.

The team's results will appeared i
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Contact: Will Ferguson
ferguswg@wfu.edu
509-954-2912
Wake Forest University
Source:Eurekalert

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