Beech trees are booming in the woodlands of the northeastern United States amid a changing climate, however, scientists warned this is not a good thing.
Beech Trees Dominating Forests
Beech is a large tree often used for firewood. It has smooth gray bark, glossy leaves, and fine-grained timber but considered to be of less commercial value compared with other species of birch and maple trees used for making furniture and flooring.
In a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Aaron Weiskittel from the University of Maine, and colleagues, raised concern over forest dominated by beech trees.
Weiskittel and colleagues looked at data from the U.S. Forest Service spanning 30 years, from 1983 to 2014, to track the trend in forest composition in the states of New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. They found that the abundance of the beech increased substantially but species that include the red maple, sugar maple and birch decreased.
They also found that the dominance of the tree is notable in key tourist areas that include the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
The researchers said that the trends they observed may have significant implications on forest ecosystems and the industries that depend on them. For one, the beech has lower commercial value. For loggers and timberlands, more beech trees may mean less access to better lumber.
Beech Bark Disease
The researchers also raised concern over the spread of the beech bark disease, which can cause trees to die young. They may be replaced by newer trees but these too may also succumb to the disease. Older trees are also at risk of the disease.
“Older trees that have decayed or broken crowns before beech bark disease invades a stand are often the first to succumb to beech bark disease,” stated the Michigan State University Extension’s bulletin.
Weiskittel said that the beech is more likely to grow even more since it is not the favored food of deer, which tend to eat more seedlings of other trees.
Booming Beech Trees Linked To Higher Temperatures And Precipitations
The researchers said that the abundance of the American beech and the decline of other species is linked to higher temperatures and precipitations.
“Climate-associated changes in forest composition have been widely reported, particularly where changes in abiotic conditions have resulted in high mortality of sensitive species and have disproportionately favoured certain species better adapted to these newer conditions.” researchers wrote in their study.