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Study: Global warming reduces piñon pine seed formation

Absence of late-summer cold snaps may be the key factor

Piñon pines growing in the badlands of southeastern Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Piñon pines growing in the badlands of southeastern Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Piñon pines, a key food source for wildlife in Southwest ecosystems, are producing 40 percent fewer pine cones than just a few decades ago, and global warming may be the culprit, according to CU-Boulder researchers who tracked seed production at nine study sites in New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma.

The decline in seed production could have profound implications for regional ecosystems, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Miranda Redmond, who led the study. The biggest declines in pinyon pine seed cone reproduction were at the higher elevation research sites, which are experiencing more dramatic warming relative to lower elevations, Redmond said.

“We are finding significant declines in pinyon pine cone production at many of our study sites,” said Redmond. “The biggest declines in cone production we measured were in areas with greater increases in temperatures over the past several decades during the March to October growing season.” Continue reading

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