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The New Climatology of the American West

Climate
The New Climatology of the American West

William deBuys

Whitewater-Baldy fire, as seen from the old Negrito fire lookout tower, on May 26, 2012. Photo by the National Weather Service.

Dire fire conditions, like the inferno of heat, turbulence and fuel that recently turned 346 homes in Colorado Springs to ash, are now common in the West. A lethal combination of drought, insect plagues, windstorms and legions of dead, dying or stressed-out trees constitute what some pundits are calling wildfire’s “perfect storm.”

They are only half right.

This summer's conditions may indeed be perfect for fire in the Southwest and West, but if you think of it as a “storm,” perfect or otherwise—that is, sudden, violent and temporary—then you don’t understand what’s happening in this country or on this planet. Look at those 346 burnt homes again, or at the High Park fire that ate 87,284 acres and 259 homes west of Fort Collins, or at the Whitewater Baldy Complex fire in New Mexico that began in mid-May, consumed almost 300,000 acres, and is still smoldering, and what you have is evidence of the new normal in the American West.

For some time, climatologists have been warning us that much of the West is on the verge of downshifting to a new, perilous level of aridity. Droughts like those that shaped the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and the even drier 1950s will soon be “the new climatology” of the region—not passing phenomena but terrifying business-as-usual weather. Western forests already show the effects of this transformation.

If you surf the blogosphere looking for fire information, pretty quickly you’ll notice a dust devil of “facts” blowing back and forth: big fires are four times more common than they used to be; the biggest fires are six-and-a-half times larger than the monster fires of yesteryear; and owing to a warmer climate, fires are erupting earlier in the spring and subsiding later in the fall. Nowadays, the fire season is two and a half months longer than it was 30 years ago.

All of this is hair-raisingly true. Or at least it was, until things got worse. After all, those figures don’t come from this summer’s fire disasters but from a study published in 2006 that compared then-recent fires, including the record-setting blazes of the early 2000s, with what now seem the good old days of 1970 to 1986. The data-gathering in the report, however, only ran through 2003. Since then, the western drought has intensified, and virtually every one of those recent records—for fire size, damage and cost of suppression—has since been surpassed.

New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains are a case in point. Over the course of two weeks in 2000, the Cerro Grande fire burned 43,000 acres, destroying 400 homes in the nuclear research city of Los Alamos. At the time, to most of us living in New Mexico, Cerro Grande seemed a vision of the Apocalypse. Then, the Las Conchas fire erupted in 2011 on land adjacent to Cerro Grande’s scar and gave a master class in what the oxygen planet can do when it really struts its stuff.

The Las Conchas fire burned 43,000 acres, equaling Cerro Grande’s achievement, in its first fourteen hours. Its smoke plume rose to the stratosphere, and if the light was right, you could see within it rose-red columns of fire—combusting gases—flashing like lightning a mile or more above the land. Eventually the Las Conchas fire spread to 156,593 acres, setting a record as New Mexico’s largest fire in historic times.

It was a stunning event. Its heat was so intense that, in some of the canyons it torched, every living plant died, even to the last sprigs of grass on isolated cliff ledges. In one instance, the needles of the ponderosa pines were not consumed, but bent horizontally as though by a ferocious wind. No one really knows how those trees died, but one explanation holds that they were flash-blazed by a superheated wind, perhaps a collapsing column of fire, and that the wind, having already burned up its supply of oxygen, welded the trees by heat alone into their final posture of death.

It seemed likely that the Las Conchas record would last years, if not decades. It didn’t. This year the Whitewater Baldy fire in the southwest of the state burned an area almost twice as large.

Half Now, Half Later?

In 2007, Tom Swetnam, a fire expert and director of the laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, gave an interview to CBS’s 60 Minutes. Asked to peer into his crystal ball, he said he thought the Southwest might lose half its existing forests to fire and insects over the several decades to come. He immediately regretted the statement.  It wasn’t scientific; he couldn’t back it up; it was a shot from the hip, a WAG, a wild-ass guess.

Swetnam’s subsequent work, however, buttressed that WAG. In 2010, he and several colleagues quantified the loss of southwestern forestland from 1984 to 2008. It was a hefty 18 percent. They concluded that “only two more recurrences of droughts and die-offs similar or worse than the recent events” might cause total forest loss to exceed 50 percent. With the colossal fires of 2011 and 2012, including Arizona’s Wallow fire, which consumed more than half-a-million acres, the region is on track to reach that mark by mid-century, or sooner.

But that doesn’t mean we get to keep the other half.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast a temperature increase of 4ºC for the Southwest over the present century. Given a faster than expected build-up of greenhouse gases (and no effective mitigation), that number looks optimistic today. Estimates vary, but let’s say our progress into the sweltering future is an increase of slightly less than 1ºC so far. That means we still have an awful long way to go. If the fires we’re seeing now are a taste of what the century will bring, imagine what the heat stress of a 4ºC increase will produce. And these numbers reflect mean temperatures. The ones to worry about are the extremes, the record highs of future heat waves.  In the amped-up climate of the future, it is fair to think that the extremes will increase faster than the means.

At some point, every pine, fir, and spruce will be imperiled. If, in 2007, Swetnam was out on a limb, these days it’s likely that the limb has burned off and it’s getting ever easier to imagine the destruction of forests on a region-wide scale, however disturbing that may be.

More than scenery is at stake, more even than the stability of soils, ecosystems and watersheds: the forests of the western U.S. account for 20 to 40 percent of total U.S. carbon sequestration. At some point, as western forests succumb to the ills of climate change, they will become a net releaser of atmospheric carbon, rather than one of the planet’s principle means of storing it.

Contrary to the claims of climate deniers, the prevailing models scientists use to predict change are conservative. They fail to capture many of the feedback loops that are likely to intensify the dynamics of change. The release of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost, an especially gloomy prospect, is one of those feedbacks. The release of carbon from burning or decaying forests is another. You used to hear scientists say, “If those things happen, the consequences will be severe.” Now they more often skip that “if” and say “when” instead, but we don’t yet have good estimates of what those consequences will be.

Ways of Going

There have always been droughts, but the droughts of recent years are different from their predecessors in one significant way: they are hotter. And the droughts of the future will be hotter still.

June temperatures produced 2,284 new daily highs nationwide and tied 998 existing records. In most places, the shoe-melting heat translated into drought, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture set a record of its own recently by declaring 1,297 dried-out counties in 29 states to be “natural disaster areas.” June also closed out the warmest first half of a year and the warmest 12-month period since U.S. record keeping began in 1895. At present, 56 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing drought, a figure briefly exceeded only in the 1950s.

Higher temperatures have a big impact on plants, be they a forest of trees or fields of corn and wheat. More heat means intensified evaporation and so greater water stress. In New Mexico, researchers compared the drought of the early 2000s with that of the 1950s. They found that the 1950s drought was longer and drier, but that the more recent drought caused the death of many more trees, millions of acres of them. The reason for this virulence: it was 1ºC to 1.5ºC hotter.

The researchers avoided the issue of causality by not claiming that climate change caused the higher temperatures, but in effect stating: “If climate change is occurring, these are the impacts we would expect to see.” With this in mind, they christened the dry spell of the early 2000s a “global-change-type drought”—not a phrase that sings but one that lingers forebodingly in the mind.

No such equivocation attends a Goddard Institute for Space Studies appraisal of the heat wave that assaulted Texas, Oklahoma and northeastern Mexico last summer. Their report represents a sea change in high-level climate studies in that they boldly assert a causal link between specific weather events and global warming. The Texas heat wave, like a similar one in Russia the previous year, was so hot that its probability of occurring under “normal” conditions (defined as those prevailing from 1951 to 1980) was approximately 0.13 percent. It wasn’t a 100-year heat wave or even a 500-year one; it was so colossally improbable that only changes in the underlying climate could explain it.

The decline of heat-afflicted forests is not unique to the U.S.. Global research suggests that in ecosystems around the world, big old trees—the giants of tropical jungles, of temperate rainforests, of systems arid and wet, hot and cold—are dying off.

More generally, when forest ecologists compare notes across continents and biomes, they find accelerating tree mortality from Zimbabwe to Alaska, Australia to Spain. The most common cause appears to be heat stress arising from climate change, along with its sidekick, drought, which often results when evaporation gets a boost.

Fire is only one cause of forest death. Heat alone can also do in a stand of trees. According to the Texas Forest Service, between 2 percent and 10 percent of all the trees in Texas, perhaps half-a-billion or so, died in last year’s heat wave, primarily from heat and desiccation. Whether you know it or not, those are staggering figures.

Insects, too, stand ready to play an ever-greater role in this onrushing disaster. Warm temperatures lengthen the growing season, and with extra weeks to reproduce, a population of bark beetles may spawn additional generations over the course of a hot summer, boosting the number of their kin that that make it to winter. Then, if the winter is warm, more larvae survive to spring, releasing ever-larger swarms to reproduce again. For as long as winters remain mild, summers long and trees vulnerable, the beetles’ numbers will continue to grow, ultimately overwhelming the defenses of even healthy trees.

We now see this throughout the Rockies. A mountain pine beetle epidemic has decimated lodgepole pine stands from Colorado to Canada. About five million acres of Colorado’s best scenery has turned red with dead needles, a blow to tourism as well as the environment. The losses are far greater in British Columbia, where beetles have laid waste to more than 33 million forest acres, killing a volume of trees three times greater than Canada’s annual timber harvest.

Foresters there call the beetle irruption “the largest known insect infestation in North American history,” and they point to even more chilling possibilities. Until recently, the frigid climate of the Canadian Rockies prevented beetles from crossing the Continental Divide to the interior where they were, until recently, unknown. Unfortunately, warming temperatures have enabled the beetles to top the passes of the Peace River country and penetrate northern Alberta. Now a continent of jack pines lies before them, a boreal smorgasbord 3,000 miles long. If the beetles adapt effectively to their new hosts, the path is clear for them to chew their way eastward virtually to the Atlantic and to generate transformative ecological effects on a gigantic scale.

The mainstream media, prodded by recent drought declarations and other news, seem finally to be awakening to the severity of these prospects. Certainly, we should be grateful. Nevertheless, it seems a tad anticlimactic when Sam Champion, ABC News weather editor, says with this-just-in urgency to anchor Diane Sawyer, “If you want my opinion, Diane, now’s the time we start limiting manmade greenhouse gases.”

One might ask, “Why now, Sam?” Why not last year, or a decade ago, or several decades back? The news now overwhelming the West is, in truth, old news. We saw the changes coming. There should be no surprise that they have arrived.

It’s never too late to take action, but now, even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted immediately, Earth’s climate would continue warming for at least another generation. Even if we surprise ourselves and do all the right things, the forest fires, the insect outbreaks, the heat-driven die-offs and other sweeping transformations of the American West and the planet will continue.

One upshot will be the emergence of whole new ecologies. The landscape changes brought on by climate change are affecting areas so vast that many previous tenants of the land—ponderosa pines, for instance—cannot be expected to recolonize their former territory. Their seeds don’t normally spread far from the parent tree, and their seedlings require conditions that big, hot, open spaces don’t provide.

What will develop in their absence? What will the mountains and mesa tops of the New West look like? Already it is plain to see that scrub oak, locust, and other plants that reproduce by root suckers are prospering in places where the big pines used to stand. These plants can be burned to the ground and yet resprout vigorously a season later. One ecologist friend offers this advice, “If you have to be reincarnated as a plant in the West, try not to come back as a tree. Choose a clonal shrub, instead. The future looks good for them.”

In the meantime, forget about any sylvan dreams you might have had: this is no time to build your house in the trees.

Visit EcoWatch's CLIMATE CHANGE and BIODIVERSITY pages for more related news on this topic.

—————

William deBuys, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of seven books, most recently A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest (Oxford, 2011). He has long been involved in environmental affairs in the Southwest, including service as founding chairman of the Valles Caldera Trust, which administers the 87,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which deBuys discusses where heat, fire and climate change are taking us, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Cross-posted with permission from TomDispatch.com.

Asian elephants have been added to a list of species that need migratory protection. Steve Evans / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

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Trending

Do you feel embarrassed due to the foul odor coming from your mouth? Or your oral hygiene isn't as good as before, and you are suffering from gingivitis (inflammation of gums)?

Well, these oral problems are skyrocketing, and even young people are suffering from oral issues that result in a lack of confidence.

It's common to change your toothpaste by seeing the TV commercials that claim to free you from bad breath or sensitive teeth, but these products don't always work.

Fighting oral issues isn't that easy, even if you religiously follow what your primary school teacher has taught, to "Brush two times a day!"

Well, there is a much-hyped supplement in the market that claims to help you fight all of these oral issues: The Steel Bite Pro.

Steel Bite Pro is an oral supplement that claims to cure bad breath and other such oral issues like sensitivity and gum problems.

But does the supplement really work, or is it just like the useless toothpaste that you tried before? Let's find out in this review.

Who Should Use Steel Bite Pro?

The best part about Steel Bite Pro is that anyone can use the supplement to get rid of oral issues. The supplement contains natural ingredients such as turmeric, zinc, alfalfa, jujube seeds, and much more, so there are no chemicals at all.

No matter whether you are 20 or 60, you can use this supplement to overcome oral issues and get the confidence back that you are missing due to bad odor and sensitive teeth.

Steel Bite Pro Review: Overview of the Supplement

Steel Bite Pro is an all-natural supplement that contains a mix of natural supplements to rebuild your gums and teeth.

The supplement contains 29 different foods that help you reduce the gum pain and other dental problems you have been facing for years.

More than 55,000 people have used Steel Bite Pro till now, and the results of the supplement are pretty impressive. Furthermore, the supplement is prepared in an FDA-approved facility in the USA.

It is available in the form of pills that you can consume anytime, so using the supplement is incredibly convenient. There are numerous benefits of using the Steel Bite Pro as it solves a plethora of dental problems.

Click here to Get the Best Deal on Steel Bite Pro from the Official Website.

Pros and Cons: Steel Bite Pro

To understand the supplement better, it is essential to know about its pros and cons.

Pros

Convenient to Use

The dietary supplement is convenient to use as it comes in the form of pills. You can take the pill anytime, even when you are in your office or somewhere else. Now there is no need to use multiple kinds of toothpaste and splurge money by visiting a dentist.

All-Natural Ingredients

All the ingredients present inside the supplement are natural, and there are no chemicals that can harm your teeth or gums.

Affordable

When you compare the cost of 1 bottle with the cost of a special toothpaste with the fee that your dentist charges, Steel Bite Pro will seem much more affordable. The supplement is available in multiple packages, so you will find it affordable to use.

No Side Effects at All

There are no side effects to using Steel Bite Pro, so you can rest assured that you won't face any headaches or other issues while curing the oral issues. The reason why Steel Bite Pro has no side effects is due to its natural ingredients.

Designed by Experts

The supplement is designed by experts that have been in the industry for years.

No Additional Medicines Are Required

When you are using Steel Bite Pro, you can avoid using other medicines that you have been taking to cure oral issues.

Attacks on the Pain

There are several ingredients present in Steel Bite Pro that attack tooth and gum pain so that you get some instant relief with the supplement.

Comes With a Money Back Guarantee

The supplement comes with a 60-day money back guarantee, so you can claim a full refund if you find the supplement isn't working for you, or if it isn't doing what the manufacturer has promised.

Cons

You Can Purchase It From the Official Site Only

The supplement is only available for purchase from the Official Website. Sometimes the supplement gets out of stock, so you have to wait for it to get back in stock.

A Single Bottle Costs More

If you buy a single bottle of the supplement, it'll cost you more than other packages with multiple bottles.

Ingredients in Steel Bite Pro

All the ingredients present in Steel Bite Pro are natural and have proven benefits for humans. Here is a list of supplements explained in detail and how they can benefit you if you start using Steel Bite Pro.

Turmeric

As per a study, there are innumerable benefits of using turmeric on your teeth. The natural herb has antimicrobial properties that help remove the plaque effectively from the teeth, exterminate bacteria and help cure sensitivity.

Moreover, turmeric is good for fighting oral inflammation issues. When applied on teeth, the ingredient gives instant relief from pain and is effective in curing mouth ulcers as well.

Berberine

Berberine is a natural herb with proven antioxidant power to help you get rid of microorganisms developing inside the mouth. Furthermore, the ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties and is good for curing oral issues caused due to viruses and bacteria.

Yarrow

It is another natural ingredient that is used in a range of health supplements due to its healing power. The ingredient naturally heals the gums and the damage caused to the teeth by bacteria and microorganisms.

As per a study, it helps reduce the infection, oral pain, and cures other dental issues.

Milk Thistle

Your liver has a significant impact on your oral health, and that's where milk thistle works. The natural ingredient eliminates toxins from the liver and detoxifies your mouth as well.

Here is a study that proves how milk thistle is beneficial in detoxifying the liver.

Alfalfa

The decaying of teeth is the initial phase of damage caused by bacteria thriving inside your mouth. Alfalfa works by reducing tooth sensitivity drastically and repairs the tooth decay caused by the bacteria.

It even stops the bacteria from growing further so you can expect good oral health.

Ginger

A lot of natural supplements for teeth contain ginger because of its benefits on the teeth and the stomach. This ingredient present in the Steel Bite Pro reduces nausea and inflammation.

As per this study, there are umpteen other benefits of ginger as well, such as it maintains the pH inside your mouth.

Jujube Seeds

Jujube seeds are good for boosting the immunity. Also, the ingredient has excellent antioxidant properties and is rich in Vitamin C, which is beneficial for the teeth and overall oral health.

Dandelion

Dandelion is a natural ingredient extracted from herbs. The ingredient is rich in minerals and has immense benefits such as fighting the bacteria and preventing the infections occurring inside your mouth.

Zinc

Zinc is essential for teeth, and that is why many toothpaste brands advertise that their product contains a good amount of zinc. Further, zinc is a natural immunity booster and fights against bacteria to prevent gum disease and cavities.

Moreover, zinc repairs the enamel on your teeth that's damaged due to toothpaste or any other reasons. Here is a study that shows the benefits of zinc for your teeth and mouth.

Chicory Root

Chicory root acts as a catalyst and increases the effectiveness of other ingredients. The reason why you get instant relief from pain after using Steel Bite Pro is due to the presence of chicory root in the pills.

Celery Seeds

Bacteria result in bad odor and can create cavities in the teeth. Furthermore, some bacteria result in tooth decay and harm the gums. The celery seeds fight these bacteria and prevent further growth.

Yellow Dock

To stay healthy, the teeth need to absorb the minerals present in the saliva. When your teeth are damaged for any reason, they stop absorbing the minerals, and the damage continues further.

Yellow dock helps the teeth to absorb the minerals while reducing the inflammation. Various studies have proven the efficacy of yellow dock for teeth and gums, and it is a natural and effective ingredient to keep the teeth healthy.

Raspberry, Chanca Piedra, and Artichoke

These three natural ingredients have similar properties and contribute a lot to the effectiveness of Steel Bite Pro. The ingredients have good amounts of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate.

The purifying agents will remove bacteria and other impurities from the mouth so that the other ingredients work well by repairing the teeth and gums.

Feverfew

The worst thing about oral issues is the pain that you have to go through. Steel Bite Pro claims to help with the pain as it contains feverfew, which is a natural pain reliever. The ingredient suppresses oral and dental pain so you will feel better instantly.

As per a study, there are some other benefits of feverfew, because it is a medicinal plant that suppresses other pains as well. Also, there are no side effects of feverfew at all.

Burdock Root

The root of the burdock plant comes loaded with antioxidants that improve the gum health and the overall health of your mouth.

The best thing about Steel Bite Pro is that the ingredients are present in exact quantities, so you can rest assured that there will be no side effects. Every ingredient is tested in the labs for its efficiency, and that's what makes the Steel Bite Pro a considerable option if you want to improve your oral and dental health.

Click here to See the full list of ingredients in Steel Bite Pro on the official website.

How Does Steel Bite Pro Work?

It is crucial to understand how the supplement works so that you can decide whether to invest in it or not. Below is a step by step process that will help you understand Steel Bite Pro on the go.

Step 1:

When you start consuming the supplement, the pills break down in your mouth. The ingredients then mix with saliva to perform their particular actions.

Step 2:

The ingredients fight the bacteria and heal issues such as wounds while reducing the inflammation caused in the mouth.

Step 3:

The supplement cements the root of the teeth so that there are no further oral and dental issues. Also, it heals the gums and repairs the enamel to provide you relief from sensitivity.

The minerals present in these ingredients strengthen the crown area of the teeth while repairing the cracks so that the damage can be stopped.

Step 4:

The supplement also has some impact on your overall health as the ingredients detoxify the liver by flushing away the toxins.

Step 5:

Consuming the supplement regularly will help you maintain the shield on the teeth that fights against bacteria and microorganisms. Also, it improves the condition of the teeth and curtails bad breath.

The working of Steel Bite Pro is really simple, as there are no complex ingredients present in the supplement. It is easy to use, and all you have to do is consume the pill regularly to keep your oral and dental health up to the mark.

Benefits of Steel Bite Pro

There are many benefits of using Steel Bite Pro since it is an all-natural supplement that has no side effects at all. Here are some benefits you need to consider before buying it.

Prevents Bleeding and Improves Gum Health

The reason why your teeth bleed is due to the loose gums. The space between the tooth and the gum results in bleeding, and that's where Steel Bite Pro helps. The supplement tightens the gums so that there is no bleeding at all.

Whitens the Teeth Naturally

The ingredients present in the supplement, such as zinc and milk thistle, whiten the teeth naturally. There is no need to invest in expensive teeth whitening toothpaste if you are using Steel Bite Pro.

Reduces Bad Breath

The supplement contains ingredients that improve the overall health of the teeth, and it automatically reduces bad breath.

Helps Cure Tooth Pain

Steel Bite Pro has feverfew, which is a natural pain reliever ingredient. The ingredient cures tooth and gum pain and can have instant results after you consume Steel Bite Pro.

Click here to Learn more about the Benefits of Steel Bite Pro on the official website.

Side Effects of Using Steel Bite Pro

You may find it surprising, but Steel Bite Pro has no side effects at all as the supplement contains natural ingredients and has exact quantities so that there are no ill effects on your health. If you keep using the supplement as prescribed, then it can have some excellent results.

Who Should Refrain from Steel Bite Pro?

Steel Bite Pro is an all-natural dietary supplement to improve your dental and oral health.

Anyone can use the supplement, including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. There are no harms of using the supplement.

However, it would be great to consult a doctor before using the supplement to find out if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

Dosage and Tips to Start

To get the most from Steel Bite Pro, you should consume two pills with water every day. Take both capsules together anytime that's convenient for you.

To get the best results, follow a brushing regime, and massage your teeth regularly with some good-quality oil to increase the effectiveness of the pills.

Where to Buy Steel Bite Pro, and Guarantees?

You can only buy Steel Bite Pro from the Official Site, as the supplement is not available anywhere else for purchase. You can choose from three available options:

●1 bottle (60 pills) $69

●Three bottles (180 pills) $117

●Six bottles (360 pills) $294 (Best Deal)

You get a 60-day money back guarantee with all the packages, no matter if you go for one bottle or six bottles. You are eligible to claim the full refund within 60 days of the date of purchase.

Steel Bite Pro Reviews: Closing Thoughts

After this definitive review, it will be easier for you to find out whether you should use Steel Bite Pro or not. The supplement contains a mix of 29 natural ingredients that have proven benefits and are tested in labs.

It is essential to get rid of oral and dental issues before things get out of control and you have no option left despite visiting a dentist.

Getting a good quality supplement is essential, so Steel Bite Pro is a viable option if you need a supplement with no side effects.

Anyone can use this supplement irrespective of age, sex, and medical conditions. Lastly, buy the supplement only from the official site so that you can easily claim the refund if required.

Click here to Get the best deal on Steel Bite Pro from the official website.

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A ghost forest in Nags Head Woods, North Carolina on Oct. 16, 2017. NC Wetlands / CC BY 2.0


Along the Atlantic coast, ghost forests provide haunting signs of sea-level rise. These stands of bleached and broken tree trunks are all that remain after salty water inundates a forest.


Matt Kirwan is with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He says ghost forests are not a new phenomenon, but they're moving inland faster as seas rise.

"Eventually they'll fall apart and become stumps surrounded by marshland," he says. "And so when you see a ghost forest now, you're seeing where the marsh will be in the future."

Marshes are valuable ecosystems, so in some ways, that's positive.

"Ghost forests are a surprising indicator of ecological resilience in coastal systems," Kirwan says. "They mark how marshes naturally migrate in response to sea-level rise."

But that migration comes at a cost.

"Places that people have lived for hundreds of years are becoming too wet and too salty to grow crops on, in some cases," Kirwan says. "And of course, the forest resources are being lost. And in some cases, people are forced to move from their homes as the land becomes too flooded."

So ghost forests have become eerie symbols of rapid change.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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