If you happened to venture outside the city this past weekend, you would have come upon fall’s breathtaking performance: acres of aspen trees fading from green to yellow and gold as the autumn chill creeps down from the mountains.
And if you haven’t made it up to the Aspen Vista trail (one of the more popular trails branching off Hyde Park Road on the way to the ski basin), you should—not just because winter is coming, but also because those trees may not be there forever.
This week, researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the US Geological Survey and the University of Arizona published findings that as the Southwest becomes warmer and drier due to climate change, dying trees could significantly change the face of the region’s forests.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, uses historic tree-ring data to extrapolate future trends.
“If drought intensifies, we can expect forests not only to grow more slowly, but also to die more quickly,” lead researcher A Park Williams said in a statement. According to the press release, “during the second half of this century, about 80 percent of years will exceed megadrought levels.”
This means a grim future for Santa Fe’s scenic forests—so buy a Prius and go enjoy them now.