Study Shows Climate Change Filling Cascade Meadow with Trees

Nov 2, 2012

A new study from Oregon State University shows that declining snowpack is allowing trees to invade some grassy alpine meadows in the Cascades.

Trees are invading some grassy alpine meadows in the Cascades.
Credit EncMstr / Wikimedia Commons

For many in the northwest, alpine meadows are the grand payoff after miles of slogging up a trail.

“You feel like you’re on top of the world. You have this gorgeous view, and these wildflowers. And you have space.“

That’s Harold Zald, a researcher at Oregon State University. Zald has published a study documenting climate change in a meadow in the central Oregon cascades.

He says grasses and wildflowers thrived for about 400 years. But in 1950 trees started to sprout, and block the sun.

“Alpine aster, black sedge or certain lupines, they can’t survive in a shaded environment under a forest canopy.”

Zald says if the snowpack melts just a week or two earlier each year, it can allow trees to take root, and other meadow species to die out.

Copyright 2012 Oregon Public Broadcasting