Global tree cover loss reaches a record high in 2016

Global tree cover loss reaches a record high in 2016

SOURCE: Think Progress DATE: October 23, 2017 SNIP: In 2016, the world’s forests lost more than 73.4 million acres of tree cover — an area roughly the size of New Zealand, and a 51 percent increase from the year before. Tree cover — considered any wooded area, natural or otherwise — is declining at an alarming rate, fueled by poor forest management and climate change-driven drought, according to a study published Monday by Global Forest Watch. “We see a massive increase in tree cover loss in 2016, and, from what we have seen, it seems like the main reason for the increase is a proliferation of forest fires both in the tropics and other parts of the world,” Mikaela Weisse, a research analyst with Global Forest Watch, told ThinkProgress. The tree cover loss recorded in 2016 is the highest amount since Global Forest Watch began keeping records in...
Tropical forests used to protect us from climate change. Now, scientists say, they’re making it worse

Tropical forests used to protect us from climate change. Now, scientists say, they’re making it worse

SOURCE: Washington Post and The Guardian DATE: September 28, 2017 SNIP: A surprising scientific study released Thursday presents troubling news about the enormous forests of the planet’s tropical midsection — suggesting that they are releasing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon to the atmosphere, rather than storing it in the trunks of trees and other vegetation. “The losses due to deforestation and degradation are actually emitting more CO2 to the atmosphere, compared with how much the existing forest is able to absorb,” said Alessandro Baccini, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the Woods Hole Research Center. Specifically, the study found that tropical forests are losing 425 million tons of carbon annually, on average, which is the net result after you sum up 861 million tons of losses and 436 million tons of gains as forests grow each year. “Forests are losing more carbon than we thought,” Baccini said. “And one reason they’re losing so much carbon is because there is actually a lot of disturbance in the forest. You don’t have to wait for deforestation. You don’t have to only look for places that completely lost the trees.” This is a far greater loss than previously thought and carries extra force because the data emerges from the most detailed examination of the topic ever undertaken. The authors say their findings – published in the journal Science on Thursday – should galvanise policymakers to take remedial...
Small Pests, Big Problems: The Global Spread of Bark Beetles

Small Pests, Big Problems: The Global Spread of Bark Beetles

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: September 21, 2017 SNIP: “The amount of conifer mortality that we’re seeing both here and in Europe is unprecedented historically,” says Jesse Morris, a geographer with the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Morris and other scientists are trying to determine the potential impacts, such as more intense wildfires, disrupted watersheds, destroyed habitats, and reduced carbon storage, as climate change spurs increasingly widespread and severe beetle outbreaks. Bark beetles are a natural part of the conifer forest life cycle, regularly flaring and fading like fireworks. But the scope and intensity in the past two decades is anything but normal, scientists say, in large part because rising temperatures are preventing the widespread winter die-off of beetle larvae, while also enhancing the beetles’ killing power. When beetles burrow into their bark, trees release a sap rich with volatile toxic chemicals to flush the insects and prevent them from sending pheromone signals mustering other beetles. But increasingly long and intense droughts of recent years have weakened the trees’ defenses. Without sufficient water, trees can’t produce enough sap. Hot temperatures cause further moisture loss. Trees weaken and become easier to...
‘They died of thirst’: Extreme conditions wipe out forest over 1000 kilometres

‘They died of thirst’: Extreme conditions wipe out forest over 1000 kilometres

SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald DATE: March 14, 2017 SNIP: The death of mangrove forests stretched over 1000 kilometres of Australia’s northern coast a year ago has been blamed on extreme conditions including record temperatures. Dr Duke said scientists now know that mangroves, much like coral reefs, are vulnerable to a warming climate and extreme weather events. Until now, Australian mangroves were considered to be in relatively good condition, and there had never been such dieback recorded. The mangrove wipeout could have multiple impacts, including the loss of fisheries worth hundreds of millions of dollars, more coastal erosion because of the loss of forest protection, and poorer water quality given the filtering role the trees play, he said. The death of so much mangrove forest in one hit is “unprecedented“, a researcher...
102 million dead California trees ‘unprecedented in our modern history,’ officials say

102 million dead California trees ‘unprecedented in our modern history,’ officials say

SOURCE: LA Times DATE: November 18, 2016 SNIP: The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion. “The scale of die-off in California is unprecedented in our modern history,” said Randy Moore, the forester for the region of the U.S. Forest Service that includes California. Trees are dying “at a rate much quicker than we thought.” Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the...