Trees, Forests, and Carbon
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Forests cover about half of the American West, but a much greater proportion of the Western Mountains. Most of them are dominated by conifers rather than deciduous trees. We start with some basic forest ecology, and then explore the vulnerability of the forests of western mountains to a warming climate. Some forests and woodlands may be converted to shrublands, whereas others will be resilient enough, at least temporarily, that they will endure, albeit with changing species density and composition. I discuss potential dispersal and migration of forest species in the face of climate change, and note the considerable barriers to these in the West, from both mountain topography and disconnected natural areas. I introduce the idea of source vs. sink with respect to carbon sequestration, and discuss the tradeoffs between CO2 fertilization and water stress, and the feedbacks (positive if a source, negative if a sink) to climate warming.