Northern California Trees & Plants Move Downhill

As the globe warms up, many plants and animals are moving uphill to keep their cool. Conservationists are anticipating much more of this as they make plans to help natural systems adapt to a warming planet. But a new study in Science has found that plants in northern California are bucking this uphill trend in preference for wetter, lower areas.

Individual plants don’t move, of course, but the optimal range of many different species in the area studied has been creeping downhill. That means more new seeds sprouted downhill, and more new plants took root. This was true not just for annual plants but also for bushes and even trees.

This adds some pretty big wrinkles to conservation plans. For example: It’s not always a good assumption that protecting areas up slope from plants will help protect their future habitat as the climate changes.

For more information, see this article from KQED, San Francisco’s local NPR station.