KSU Researchers Win Grant to Study Evergreen Expansion

Aug 12, 2019

Kent State researchers have received a grant to study a type of evergreen tree common on the east coast that’s changing the landscape as it moves west.

The university has received $914,000 from the National Science Foundation to understand how the Eastern Red Cedar tree is spreading.

David Ward is a professor of biological sciences and will be leading the project. He says the tree's expansion has broader implications.

“One of the issues that concerns us considerably is that most of these domestic livestock, such as cattle and sheep, are grazers. So, they only eat grasses. And what’s happening is that these trees, which are woody, are expanding across the landscape and so they’re reducing the amount of grazing land that’s available.”

They’ll be looking at major factors to explain the tree's growth. Ward says these can include resistance to cold or change in the patterns of birds that carry seeds.

But he says he suspects a major factor will be climate change.

“As we see this continuing increase in carbon dioxide levels, mostly as a result of burning our fossil fuels, the woody plants, which use a 3-carbon mode of photosynthesis, are gonna become more efficient and will be able to grow faster and defend themselves better. And so they will become more abundant.”

A professor with the university’s Journalism and Mass Communication school will be using part of the grant along with video production students to produce a documentary about the trees spread for PBS.