Thursday, January 22, 2009

The trees are dying

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 4:47 PM

A Yosemite sugar pine, victim of bark beetles

A Yosemite sugar pine, victim of bark beetles

You remember that scene in The Day After Tomorrow -- the goofy 2004 global warming thriller -- where Jake Gyllenhaal tries to outrun a wave of insta-freeze that's chasing him down hallways and around corners? (You're forgiven, or even commended, if the answer is no.) Well, a scarier, real-life version of that scene appears to be taking place here in the Pacific Northwest, only instead of insta-freeze it's rapid global warming, and instead of Jake Gyllenhaal it's coniferous trees.

As reported on , a new study reveals that forests on our part of the continent are dying twice as fast as they were 17 years ago, thanks to climate change.

The study primarily focused on three types of coniferous trees: pines, firs and hemlocks. Older-growth forests -- some up to 500 years old -- have trees of all ages, and researchers found that mortality rates have increased for all age groups. Since mortality rates went up across the board, scientists ruled out a number of other possible causes, including ozone-related air pollution, long-term effects of fire suppression and normal forest dynamics. In the end, California had the highest tree-death rate.

Some scientists speculate that as the climate warms up, these suffering forests will simply re-establish themselves in cooler climes, like old folks retiring to Nova Scotia. Of course pines, firs and hemlocks lack the nimble, loping gate of young Mr. Gyllenhaal.
Given the speed at which warming appears to be occurring, it's not clear whether tree species will be able to migrate fast enough to survive, said [Phillip] van Mantgem of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Yikes. And that's not the only thing trees have to fear. Invasive insects like the bark beetle --

Adorable, aren't they?

Cute, aren't they?

-- love the warm weather almost as much as they love gnawing on weak trees.

On a related note, nice weather we've been having, ain't it?

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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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