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Monday, February 4, 2013

Bark Beetles Threatening Much More Than "Just" Lodgepole Pines, Part II

Readers, I am posting the end section of a valuable article on what is happening to forests all over the world -- I encourage you to hit the link and read the entire article:

Here is just a sample:
  • Extreme droughts in North Africa are killing Atlas cedar from Morocco to Algeria.
  • Heat and drought are battering the high-elevation tropical moist forests in Uganda, mountain acacia in Zimbabwe and centuries-old aloe plants in Namibia.
  • Drought as also lambasted the tropical dry forest of northwest and southwest India, fir in South Korea, the junipers of Saudi Arabia, and pine and fir in central Turkey.
  • Australia has seen widespread death in acacia woodlands and eucalypt and Corymbia forests.
  • Oak, fir, spruce, beech and pines across Western Europe are dying too.
  • Quaking aspen [are] dying en masse….warmer temperatures and dry weather have proven again to be lethal for these remarkable trees.
In Canada, quaking aspen (aka trembling aspen) is the most abundant deciduous tree in our boreal forest and the primary tree in the vast parkland zone bordering our prairies. It is an extremely important tree, both ecologically and commercially.
The recent die off of these aspens has been so extreme and so widespread that the Canadian government has started a multi-province study -- the Climate Impacts on Productivity and Health of Aspen -- in the hope that something can be done to save these iconic and valuable ecosystems.
Even this book's long list of climate damages to the world's forests is far from complete. For example, a favourite tree of mine -- our yellow cedar -- is being killed off as its rapidly warming habitat becomes deadly. (See: Freezing to death in a warming climate: yellow-cedars in trouble)

The future

As Dr. Halter urges, consider that all this is happening with only 0.8 C of global warming. Institutions like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the United Nations and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have all recently warned that we are on course for a "catastrophe" of 4.0 C to 6.2 C during the lives of today's children. This is five to eight times the amount of warming we have seen so far. Beyond 2.0 C the climate science and the nations of the world have said human civilization faces dire threats.
Forests in particular require centuries of climate stability to develop and thrive. They move and adapt very slowly. Yet the warming we are now unleashing by burning coal, oil and natural gas is far faster than anything science has uncovered in our planet's past. The future for our forests is indeed grim unless we act with haste to leave most of the world's known fossil fuels in the ground. Our rapid transition to a sustainable renewable energy system is the forests' best hope.
Despite the dire threats, Dr. Halter preserves his optimism that a solution can be found in time:
Humans are exceptional problem solvers – it’s what we do best.
Knowing what is happening in our wild ecosystems empowers us to embrace change and make an effort to adapt in our own lives. Change is opportunity…
There is hope if each of us lends a helping hand.
For me this short book opened a clear window into the ancient splendour and recent fragility of our forests. It helps explain"what comes next?"  I've only scratched the surface of what it serves up. I recommend it to anyone interested in the future of our magnificent conifer forests in North America.

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