Monday, August 31, 2015

Northern Forests Face Onslaught from Heat and Drought

Many northern hemisphere forests face destruction as climate change brings both fiercer droughts and higher temperatures.

The Major Oak in England’s Sherwood Forest: Old age is not its only threat (Image Credit: Immanuel Giel via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
In the long term, many of the great oak forests of Europe or the giant redwoods and pines of America may not survive.  US researchers foresee potential widespread loss of the great temperate forests of both continents.

Under the combined assault of increasing global temperatures and unprecedented drought, some forests could inexorably slide into savannah or scrubland.

Constance Millar is an ecologist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Pacific Southwest Station.  She and a colleague, Nathan Stephenson of the US Geological Survey, report in the journal Science that the boreal forests of the fast-warming sub-Arctic zones are not the only imperilled woodlands.

They see climate change – driven by rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in turn fuelled by ever-greater fossil fuel combustion – as an emerging “mega-disturbance”:  the bringer of not just longer and hotter droughts but of a new class of affliction, the unprecedented “global-change-type drought”.

This cumbersome terminology masks a spell of longer, more severe and hotter droughts that will set the circumstances for new insect pests, fresh plant diseases, invasive competitor species and more extensive and more severe wildfires.

Read more at Northern Forests Face Onslaught from Heat and Drought

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