Ready, Set, Grow: Hunger Games for Trees Begins in Europe

Which trees are best equipped to handle climate change?
What do trees think about their very own Hunger Games? Might they say: 'Please leaf us alone'? (Photo: George Rose / Getty Images)
Mar 29, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

When climate change hits its full, nasty stride mid-century, which tree types will stand up to all that crazy oscillating weather and boldly declare through the swirling wind and stifling heat: “You will not fell me, I will not wither and die!”?

This question, or something like it, is the basic operating premise for a massive scientific experiment underway in Europe, reports Reuters.

Researchers across the continent have planted a myriad of tree types to determine which ones can best survive the coming effects of climate change.

In Wales, for example, a cleared area about the size of five soccer fields in the Crychan Forest is being planted with saplings from the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, California and beyond, researchers said.

“The kind of information we’re getting out of it is going to inform the policy makers and the foresters of the future about the species that they will be able to use,” Chris Jones of the Forestry Commission Wales told the BBC. “This is one of the biggest trials we’ve done in forest research.”

Don’t hold your breath for results anytime soon, as it could take years before the data can be put to practical use.

“The main problem is the timescale,” said Keith Kurby, of Natural England. With any trial, we can only get the answers as the trees grow, and so we can get lots of information in the short term. But to be useful we have to wait until the trees mature—that is 50 years’, 100 years’ time.”

Call these test trials the Hunger Games for Trees, the Arbor Games, or Survival of the Tree-ist—just don’t call them fair.

We’re asking all sorts of trees to involuntarily subject themselves to an experiment that will most likely determine which ones will be planted in large numbers in the future and which ones will not? In other words, we’re asking them to dig their own graves. Doesn’t seem like the decent thing to do, does it?

Then again, neither does asking them to spend their days pumping oxygen into our atmosphere and preventing erosion only to die at the blades of our chainsaws so we can have things like baseball bats, baseball cards, rowboats, paddles for rowboats, and cardboard cutouts of Kim Jong Il.