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Posted Thu Feb 14 2013: from Scientific American:
Where Few Trees Have Gone Before: Mountain Meadows
... with a warming climate, snow has begun melting earlier and growing seasons have lengthened; that extra time with little or no snow cover has given trees a boost. As a result, tree occupation rose from 8 percent in 1950 to 35 percent in 2008, reports a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service-funded study published last October in Landscape Ecology. At a time when so many forests are threatened, aren't more trees something to celebrate? Not necessarily, say the authors of the new study. These tall trees block light that meadow grasses, shrubs and wildflowers need to survive. Once trees become established, the surrounding seed banks of native grasses tend to fade away. The meadows' "biodiversity value is much larger than the amount of area they occupy," explains lead author Harold S. J. Zald, postdoctoral research associate at Oregon State University, who hatched the idea for the study while backpacking in the Cascade Range. The researchers do not yet know which plant or animal species would be endangered.
[Read more stories about: climate impacts, forests, sixth extinction]

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