The extensive mortality of yellow-cedar along more than 1000 kilometers of the northern Pacific coast of North America serves as a leading example of climate effects on a forest tree species. In this article, we document our approaches to resolving the causes of tree death, which we explain as a cascade of interacting topographic, forest-structure, and microclimate factors that act on a unique vulnerability of yellow-cedar to fine-root freezing. The complex causes of tree mortality are reduced to two risk factors—snow depth and soil drainage—which are then used to model present and future cedar habitat suitability. We propose a dynamic, comprehensive conservation strategy for this valuable species on the basis of zones created by shifting climate, cedar's ecological niche, and observed risk factors. Research on yellow-cedar decline is offered as a template for understanding and adapting to climate change for other climate—forest issues.
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