It looks as though climate change could kill the traditional Christmas tree in Scandinavian countries, as reduced snowfall is affecting the health of spruce trees there. New Scientist reports that snow is very important for the health of trees because it acts like a layer of insulation to protect their roots from the cold northern winters. Studying a stand of 47-year-old Norwegian spruce trees in Eastern Finland for two seasons revealed to the Finnish Forest Research Institute (FFRI) that a thinner snowpack had negative consequences for the trees. Sirkka Sutinen and fellow researchers from the FFRI simulated the effects of thin snowpacks and discovered that when thaws were delayed until mid summer, buds opened much later and created smaller needles.

finland, snow, scandinavia, trees, norway spruce, climate change, global warming

New Scientist notes that the conditions simulated in the FFRI research were more extreme than those found naturally, but modeling shows that a lower degree of snowfall is a distinct possibility down the road. “If the climate changes how we expect it to, the trees are not going to be happy,” Sutinen told New Scientist. “If we had several years like this is a row, we could see significant damage.”

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Add to that the fact that warmer temperatures are favored by the spruce bark beetle, a bug that feasts on the Norwegian spruce and could soon be doubling its population each year, and you have a recipe for an evergreen massacre that could stump many a Christmas to come.

Via New Scientist

Images by funch and edweerdt, Flickr Creative Commons