A new study published in Diversity and Distributions noted old-growth forests, with their diverse tree sizes and species may provide refuge for bird species in population decline resulting from climate shifts. Researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry noted over the last 30 years that temperature increases during the breeding season limited population growth for two tracked species; Wilson’s warbler (Cardellina pusilla) and the hermit warbler (Setophaga occidentalis). These effects were mitigated in areas containing significant proportions of old-growth forest.
Using satellite imagery of the research areas allowed the research team, led by Matthew Betts, to calculate approximate distances to old-growth forests along each 25mi survey route. Their findings provide support for the importance of old-growth forest conservation in our current changing climate. Researchers on this project admit that more research is needed to identify specific qualities of old-growth forests that provide a buffer for these bird species however, they have stated that it could be that the trees are able to moderate temperatures by functioning as heat sinks with multiple canopy layers as climate buffers.
Betts MG, Phalan B, Frey SJK, Rousseau JS, Yang Z. Old-growth forests buffer climate-sensitive bird populations from warming. Divers Distrib. 2017;00:1–9.
Complex, old growth forests may protect some bird species in a warming climate, ScienceDaily.com
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Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources