While insect attack, disease and fire are contributing to the new arboreal landscape, climate change is causing species that have been established for centuries or millennia to lose their competitive edge, according to Oregon State’s Richard Waring, lead author of the study.
The study suggests that many species once able to survive and thrive are being muscled out by opportunistic newcomers.
Co-author Steven Running says that while ecosystems are always changing at very slow rates, the distribution of tree species is now being altered so quickly due to recent climate change that humans can notice it.
The study says common species such as lodgepole pine will eventually be replaced by other trees, such as ponderosa pine or Douglas fir.
Some areas may become a desert landscape with no trees surviving, according to the researchers.