Paper birch: Sentinels of climate change in the Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska

Park Science



The Niobrara River Valley in the northern Great Plains supports scattered stands of paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh), a species more typical of boreal forests. These birch stands are considered to be relictual populations that have persisted since the end of the Wisconsin glaciation. Localized summer microclimates have likely facilitated the persistence of birch populations in a region otherwise unsuitable for the species. Dieback of canopy-sized birch has been observed throughout the valley in recent years, although no onset dates are documented. Changes in spring weather patterns may be causing rootlet injury so that trees die in spite of the still-cool summer microclimates. Current weather patterns, combined with little evidence of recruitment of young birch and great geographic distances from potential immigrant sources, make the future persistence of birch in the Niobrara River Valley stands uncertain.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Paper birch: Sentinels of climate change in the Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska
Series title Park Science
Volume 28
Issue 2
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher U.S. National Park Service
Publisher location Lakewood, CO
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 8 p.
First page 74
Last page 77
Country United States
State Nebraska
Other Geospatial Niobrara River Valley
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