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Studying Tree Health

Trees are dying twice as fast as they did three decades ago in older forests of the western United States, and data collected by Lewis & Clark students are helping scientists identify warming temperatures as a contributing factor. Student data were included in a paper titled “Widespread Increase of Tree Mortality Rates in the Western United States,” which appeared in the January 23 issue of Science.

For the past three summers, Lewis & Clark students have engaged in an environmental service project with University of Washington researchers through the College Outdoors program, directed by Joe Yuska. Students have gathered data at long-term forest research plots throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“We returned to plots that were established 30-plus years previously and remeasured every 5 to 10 years to provide an ongoing image of forest dynamics over time,” explains Brian Erickson B.A. ‘06, leader of the 2006 and 2008 service projects. “The students collected high-quality data, worked extremely hard, learned a lot, and had a good time in the process.”

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