Imagine living in an area where it starts getting uncomfortably hot. Would you and your family just pack up and move somewhere else to be more comfortable? Unlike people, trees cannot escape to other climates quickly when temperatures rise as a result of global climate change. Will they suffer when it gets hotter? Or would they benefit instead?
We wanted to understand how trees in northern (or boreal) forests would respond to rising temperatures. We analyzed results from transplant experiments that took seeds from one area and planted them in areas with different climates. We found that where a tree is located within its geographical range determines how it will be affected: trees growing in the northern part of their range will likely benefit from rising temperatures and grow faster, but trees growing in the southern part of their range will likely grow more slowly. Keep in mind that factors other than just temperature changes also have to be considered to understand how forests will respond to climate change.