The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
California Tree Loss Could Have Implications for Forests Nationwide
Climate change puts forests at risk. A recent study found that a third of the conifers in the unique Klamath region in California and Oregon could disappear by the end of this century. California has lost 130 million trees since 2010 due to the combined impacts of drought, warming temperatures and the insects and diseases that accompany them.
Now, a team of researchers led by the University of Washington has found that forest loss on one side of the U.S. can have negative consequences for plants on the other coast.
The study, published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters, divided the U.S. into 18 regions used by the National Ecological Observatory Network and used climate models to determine what forest die-off in the 13 most wooded regions would do to vegetation throughout the country.
The National Ecological Observatory Network regions used for the study.The National Ecological Observatory Network
The largest negative impact occurred when the researchers simulated forest die-off in the Pacific Southwest region, which includes most of California. The Southwest die-off reduced vegetation in the Eastern U.S.
"These smaller areas of forest can have continental-scale impacts, and we really need to be considering this when we're thinking about ecological changes," study first author and University of Washington assistant professor of atmospheric sciences and biology Abigail Swann said in a University of Washington press release.
The impact of losing California's trees is especially distressing given that the state is already suffering climate-related tree loss.
"There's some pretty extensive, widespread forest loss going on," Swann said. "The changes we made in the model are bigger, but they're starting to converge with things that we're actually seeing.
"These results show that we need to start thinking about how altering vegetation in one place can affect plants elsewhere, especially in the context of climate change," Swann said.
The study found that forest die-off in the Northern Rockies and Great Basin region also had negative impacts on vegetation in the Eastern U.S. Tree loss in the Mid-Atlantic region, on the other hand, increased vegetation overall.
Swann said that more research was needed to determine exactly why the loss of trees in one part of the country impacted vegetation in another part, but said the process was roughly equivalent to weather events like El Niño, which change the way the atmosphere circulates. Tree loss on the West Coast led to warmer summers on the East, which is bad for vegetation.
"Forest loss is disrupting or changing the flow patterns in the atmosphere that is leading to a slightly different summertime climate in the eastern part of the country," Swann said.
The current study builds on the results of a 2016 University of Washington study that looked at the impacts on global vegetation of removing either the Amazon rainforest or the forests of the Western U.S.
Removing the Amazon had negative impacts on tree growth in Siberia, but a positive impact on vegetation in the Southeastern U.S. and Eastern South America, while removing West Coast forests had a negative impact on Siberia and the Southeastern U.S., but a positive impact on the Amazon and other South American forests.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."