Conditions are not improving, and droughts are more damaging to forests than thought before, according to a new study which gathered a number of 77 scientists and experts in the field.
- Since 2010, ten states reported record-breaking wildfires
- The forests are reaching their “tipping point” due to droughts and climate change
- “Fire seasons” are now 78 days longer, on average, than they were 40 years ago
- 60 million people in the U.S. depend on the water originating in national forests
Last year, California has seen a record of damaging wildfires that spread across the state and devastated the forest. This included very important water sources, vegetation, and animals who were forced to abandon their homes or perish in the flames. Even though there were parts of the Southeast that were affected, it seems that the West took the brunt of the damage. And it may be more severe than previously thought.
According to a new study, the environmental effects are actually more than the forests can handle. These are plants and shrubbery that are used to the annual dry season, meant to last and withstand hot summers under scorching heats. And yet, they are no longer able to face the more extreme temperatures. It’s “more than they can handle”, as it seems forests have reached their so called “tipping point” in terms of endurance.
James Vose, an ecologist from the Forest Service stated that this large-scale mortality and inability of native ferns to adapt indicates a more major problem. Changes and external stress created by droughts and climate change pose as a threat to forests not only across North America, but around the globe.
Drier, warmer, and more extreme weather will further result in more intense wildfires, insect outbreaks, negative impact on the habitat of native animals, massive economic consequences, and, of course, numerous die-offs of plants and trees. The forests and the rangeland are at high risk. There are 193 million acres of forest around the country, and 21 million of them are in California where the conditions have struck the worst.
According to a study conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science, there were 58 million trees from redwood forests ranging from the North Coast to Sierra that suffered from harsh water loss. An additional 12 million trees were unfortunately killed by the drought. Governor Jerry Brown called it the “worst epidemic of tree mortality in modern history” of the state.
Winters have become shorter and “fire season” is now around 78 days longer than it was back in the 1970s. In fact, since 2010, a number of ten states across the U.S. have recorded their largest fires in history. It’s in their hopes that the study will help timber companies as well as others find ways to improve the environment and lessen their own negative impact.
According to Tom Vislack, who is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 60 million people in America rely on the water originating in national forests. Around 200,000 people depend on them for their jobs and they generate around $13 billion for local economies each year.
It’s urgent that we find a way to preserve our “national treasures” because “when they are threatened, we are threatened”.
Image source: texasagriculture.gov