Rising temperatures and changing patterns of rain and snow are forcing trees and plants around the world to move toward polar regions and up mountain slopes.
These vegetation shifts will undermine much of the work the conservation community has accomplished to date, with the potential to permanently change the face of Conservancy preserves, local land trusts, and even our national parks.
In the tundra, thawing permafrost will allow shrubs and trees to take root. In the Great Plains of the United States, grasslands will likely become forests. And New England’s fiery fall foliage will eventually fade as maple and beech forests shift north toward cooler temperatures.
As plant communities try to adjust to the changing climate by moving toward cooler areas, the animals that depend on them will be forced to move. Development and other barriers may block the migration of both plants and animals.
Some species and communities such as polar bears and alpine meadows may be left without any remaining viable habitat, putting much of our treasured wildlife at risk.