Beneath Shifting Canopies

Stories etched in bark
play out tales
of light and shade,
verdant cells of leaves
and land.
Climate’s past whispers
in the boughs,
breaking form
and branch
with every shifting
A tapestry of life
weaved on fading limbs,
as frozen truths
of ancient climes
spin round once more
on threads worn thin
from wear.
Inside the shadows
of these blizzards past,
our future greens
are draped in doubt
and cast by change.

The composition of tree species, as seen here in Catalonia, is linked to climate changes over the past 21,000 years (image credit: AurĂ³, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that the diversity of present tree species is shaped by climate change in the last 21,000 years.

Scientists have long studied how Earth’s climate has changed over time and how it has affected different types of life. By looking at how climate change has impacted biodiversity in the past, they can better understand the potential risks of future climate change. However, it’s still not clear how climate change affects biodiversity in different areas.

In this new study, scientists investigated how climate change has affected the diversity of angiosperm trees (i.e., flowering trees with seeds enclosed in a fruit/protective covering) using a new global survey of 1,000 forest areas. They analysed the changes in tree types in neighbouring regions over time and found that areas with larger temperature changes between glacial and interglacial periods had lower species turnover (i.e., fewer new species of trees replacing old ones in a particular area over time) and higher richness changes (i.e., more new types of trees being added to an area over time). The study also indicated that certain tree species were more likely to survive and thrive during past climate change events, while others became extinct or were unable to spread to new areas. These findings suggest that if climate change continues at its current rate, the diversity of angiosperm trees worldwide may decrease, which could have detrimental impacts on ecosystems and human livelihoods.

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