Forests Are Dying in the American West: Global Warming Is Likely to Blame

By Eliza Strickland | January 23, 2009 8:43 am

forestTrees in the old-growth forests of the American West are dying at an accelerating pace, and researchers say that the early impacts of global warming are probably to blame. The bad news was found in California, the Pacific Northwest, and in the interior Western states. Says study coauthor Phillip van Mantgem: “Tree death rates have more than doubled over the last few decades in old-growth forests across the Western United States.” … The researchers found rising death rates across a wide variety of forest types, at different elevations, in trees of all sizes and among major species, including pine, fir and hemlock [Los Angeles Times].

Van Mantgem says that average temperatures in the West have risen by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last few decades. “While this may not sound like much, it has been enough to reduce winter snowpack, cause earlier snowmelt, and lengthen the summer drought” [Reuters], he says. Droughts make trees more stressed and vulnerable to disease, and warmer temperatures have also allowed the spread of pine beetles and other pests that attack trees. And while the death rate of old trees is increasing, the rate of new trees sprouting and surviving has not risen.

Researchers looked for other plausible causes for the increase in tree dieoffs, but reported in Science [subscription required] that rising temperatures are by far the likeliest cause. One possibility was that decades of fire suppression had made forests denser than they used to be, so that increased competition for resources raised the death rate. But the team found no evidence to support the theory. Another potential culprit, air pollution, was also ruled out. For example, death rates in Washington’s relatively pristine Olympic National Park were no better than those in the heavily ozone-polluted southern Sierra Nevada [National Geographic News].

If the current trend continues, researchers say that Western forests will be sparser and have fewer old trees. This would be a setback in the fight against global warming because thinner forests with small, young trees store less carbon, so more heat-trapping carbon dioxide would cycle into the atmosphere [Wired News]. A decrease in old-growth forests would also limit the range of birds and other animals that make their homes in such forests. Finally, a forest full of dead wood would increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Related Content:
80beats: Want to Capture Carbon? Protect Old Trees
80beats: Plants “Climb” Mountains to Escape Global Warming
DISCOVER: Want to Save the Trees? Try Paying People Not to Chop Them Down.
DISCOVER: If All the Trees Fall in the Forest

Image: Andrew J. Larson

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • Bruce Voigt

    I spent this summer trudging through the forests of Northern Vancouver Island to find the trees as they were the previous summer on the Central Island. That is early fall leaf color, rusting and needle loss.

    Using a doctors stethoscope and hammer required little effort to check trees for root rot. So here is the deal. Our forests are dying and we must immediately start a program where a conglomerate like the BC Forest Service check and monitor this Root Cancer advancement.

    In the last day or so it was announced that the federal Government would now be spending multi billions of dollars towards the devastation of Pine Beetle Infestation.

    Pine Beetle devastation ain’t nothing to whats coming and the powers of be if they can swallow a little pride can prevent a large portion of this coming hardship. For instance;

    All species has with in it a species that has the instincts to destroy its host.

    The drive of the species (Pine Beetle) is to destroy its maker. If it does not the next generation of species that the pine tree produces will eliminate it (pine beetle).

    Earth tipping has instigated this premature evolution!

    Bruce Voigt

  • Bruce Voigt

    In extracting tree root rot I was surprised to accidentally discover a small 3/8 inch black weevil. Once knowing what to look for I found this elusive creature prolific. I haven’ had time to research this yet but I assume this will mimic the pine beetle.

    Discovering blobs of chlorophyll in my hydroponic experiments, it for quite some time was a mystery to how this chlorophyll moved out of the plant. I was even setting the alarm clock to check if it moved in the dark.

    This mystery was solved when I discovered that fluid, elixir or sap moves through out the tree as a gas and this gas distributed to the roots left as a gas which then turned to the liquid green acid called chlorophyll.

    Bruce Voigt

  • Bruce Voigt

    Using a doctors stethoscope and hammer required little effort to check trees for root rot. So here is the deal. Our forests are dying and we must immediately start a program where a conglomerate like the BC Forest Service check and monitor this Root Cancer advancement.

    Bruce Voigt

  • Bruce Voigt

    Had the powers that be known and understood the true nature in what happened to cause the devastation done to Pine Forests, a wait and see attitude would not have taken place and they could easily (without spraying poison) have stopped this terrible thing from happening.

    With out realizing the problem facing all tree species they, just in the past year or so figured out that trees are actually falling over and have made a feeble attempt within parks to target and fall dangerous looking trees.

    Something killed the pine tree, then bacterium of this tree evolved to a species named PINE BEETLE.

    Something killed the orange tree, then bacterium of this tree evolved to a species named ASIAN CITRUS PSYLLID.

    Something killed California’s Black Oak, then bacterium of this tree evolved to a species named PHYTOPHTHORA RAMORUM.

    Something killed our Forests, then bacterium of this evolved to a species and I don’t know yet if it is the elusive weevils. As a matter of fact these weevils had a side kick just as elusive and with only a glimpse appeared spider like.

    Any person that was subjected to the Bubonic Plague perished and in time this ravishing thing of evolution also perished. So it is with polio, aids, sars and all these new named things only thing now is we are interacting with drugs. This allows the possibility of creating through evolution new and more devastating diseases.

    Bruce Voigt

  • Bruce Voigt

    A little more on PHOTOSYNTHESIS
    In a nut shell — Chlorophyll is the poop and pee (fertilizer) of the tree or plant.
    Through an atomic reaction, penetrating radiation (light) changes water of the elixir being drawn up the tree to gas changing its viscosity, creating sap.

    The primary colors of gas (red, yellow and blue) are responsible for the browns and tans of the tree, the green of chlorophyll, the yellow, orange, red etc of fruit and fall leaf color.

    Oxygen molecules are of a size that interact with the Earth force centrifugal and are so small as to vacate the plant leaving a void. This creates suction that draws the water elixir from the roots up the tree.

    Gasses of chlorophyll that were to large to escape are now effected by the force gravity and filter down through the tree to exit the roots. This gas now turns back into liquid green chlorophyll (acid) breaking down minerals of the soil.

    Gasses of a plant can be detected by aroma. The weeping willow is a great experimental tree as its roots spread out and away depositing chlorophyll in different minerals producing interesting and unusual aroma.

    Each cycle or day produces a layer of cells and it takes the cycle of winter (earth tipping) (radiation change) to allows these layers to bond crating cell division that produces the ring or growth of the tree.

    My writings in Crop Circles goes into this quite deep and fully explains cell division.

    Now the thing that people would like to know about photosynthesis is how the plant produces starch and sugar. This happens to be an easy one!
    The plant will first produce a life form that evolves into a species. This species evolves into another and on and on. This maturing bacterium (sugar and starch) or fruit is in fact starter food for the seed.

    Until the plant produces it’s own fertilizer (chlorophyll) like mothers milk having fast cell orbital nuclei speed, the sugar and starch instigates and maintains the seeds cell orbital speed that forces and maintains cell division (growth).

    Every once in a while Mother Nature (Earth Tipping) causes multiple season radiation changes that really screw up the works. As an example species evolution in the pine tree got carried away and produced the pine beetle.

    Like the Bubonic Plague this new species was premature to our Earth and will not be able to cope with its environment becoming extinct. In the mean time it has life’s instincts for survival and knowing that its creator the pine tree is capable of producing another species that would cause its demise it ravages it creator.

    You could compare this phenomenon with the Bubonic Plague but Man will probably spray some poison about the time the cycle is ending and like Polio will take credit where no credit is due.

    Bruce Voigt
    PS — A tree does not absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon is broken down in soil or rock by the acid chlorophyll and is part of the elixir drawn by it’s roots.

  • Bruce Voigt

    Government Authority must take immediate action in initiating extensive research into areas of tree root rot. That all commercial logging be regulated to log power lines, right of way’s and designated unsafe areas and that the public be advised of this research!

  • Bruce Voigt

    It was just anounced on TV news that Victoria B.C. are to partake in a fifty million dollar project to remove all trees from the city.

    See what a little whining can do!

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