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Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change
Newsmakers

May 2017

McDowell Quoted in Santa Fe New Mexican about Siberian Elms

Dr. Nate McDowell, Earth systems modeling scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was interviewed by the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper on the future of Siberian elm trees in the Southwestern United States.

Siberian elms can reach heights of 50 to 70 feet, have small, dark green, pointy leaves, and are valued for the shade they provide. But, because of their pesky root systems and fast-growing seedlings, they are classified as noxious weeds by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. Unlike some of their counterparts, however, Siberian elms can survive difficult conditions such as a lack of moisture or long cold spells. While at Los Alamos National Laboratory, McDowell spearheaded a Southwestern tree study in which scientists found that 72 percent of the Southwest's needleleaf evergreen forests could die by 2050 because of drought or climate warming.

"It is a new world we live in, and elms are succeeding," McDowell told the New Mexican. "Do you really want to cut down something that is doing OK when other things are dying? That's a tough question, it's a public question. ... It is a cool question."

McDowell, who joined PNNL in March 2017, grew up in Olympia, Washington. He got his PhD in forest ecology from Oregon State University in 2002. McDowell's research focuses on plants and ecosystems, including internal and external controls over their carbon-water balance and their responses to environmental changes. He has served on the editorial boards of Tree Physiology, Canadian Journal of Forest Research, New Phytologist, and Frontiers in Plant Biophysics and Modeling, and has been a chief editor for special issues of New Phytologist and Environmental Research Letters. McDowell was a Fulbright Scholar in Slovenia through the University of Ljubljana and Slovenian Forestry Institute in 2010-11.

Related coverage: The Taos News, June 1, 2017


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