Study Ties Tree Deaths To Change in Climate

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The scientists said it was hard to predict how the changes would transform the Western landscape, although they anticipated that in the future the West will boast sparser forests that cannot store as much carbon as they do now, which could contribute to further warming.

"In the end, the forest will tend to equilibrate at a lower level of stored carbon," said Jerry F. Franklin, at the University of Washington's College of Forest Resources, noting that this will occur "over a very long time period."

Franklin added that some of the West's most imperiled animal species, such as the marbled murrelet and the northern spotted owl, depend on old-growth trees for critical habitat. "There's a large array of organisms that depend on large trees," he said.