For the Cumberland Times-News
FROSTBURG — Since the climate began warming at the end of the last Ice Age, trees have had thousands of years to adapt to a warmer climate. But how will forests adapt to the rapid pace of current climate change?
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.5 million grant to Stephen Keller, Andrew Elmore, Matthew Fitzpatrick, David Nelson and Cathlyn Stylinski from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory to study climate adaptation in forest trees and predict the areas where trees are most and least adapted to changing climates in the future.
The study will focus on balsam poplar, an important species in North America’s northern forests, where climate change is expected to be especially strong.
By sequencing the DNA of hundreds of trees, the researchers will identify genes that are responsible for traits that could ensure survival as the climate changes, especially as spring occurs earlier and summer becomes warmer.