News / Science & Technology

    Tree Deaths Linked to Climate Change

    Aspen, the most widespread tree in North America, is suffering from what scientists call sudden drought-induced death from climate change. (Credit: Kimberly Pham)
    Aspen, the most widespread tree in North America, is suffering from what scientists call sudden drought-induced death from climate change. (Credit: Kimberly Pham)
    Rosanne Skirble
    Hot and dry conditions triggered by climate change are killing the world's trees, according to a new report which examines dozens of scientific articles on the subject.   

    Stanford University graduate student William Anderegg has seen this forest die-off firsthand.

    His doctoral thesis documents the impact of drought on trembling aspen, the most common tree in North America.

    “These are complete hillsides of trembling aspens that are dying off," Anderegg says. "And when the main tree in a forest goes, you tend to see a lot of the other species, especially the grasses and the wild flowers, tend to disappear as well. But you lose a lot of those species from those forests.”  

    Changing ecology

    With colleagues from Stanford and North Arizona State University, Anderegg co-authored the new report which presents a picture of accelerating worldwide tree deaths that appear to be linked to changes in the global climate.

    Tree Die Off Climate Change
    Tree Die Off Climate Changei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    Anderegg says these changes, triggered by rising levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, are stressing the world’s forests.

    “One of the ways that we expect climate change to increasingly play out in forests is through these widespread tree mortality events where you stress the trees enough that you essentially push a whole region of them off the edge and in fact what happens afterwards, after a forest dies from drought is every bit as important and in some sense matters more to humans who rely on forests.”

    • Bug infestations like the mountain pine beetle in this lodgepole pine forest in British Columbia, Canada may be in response to a changing climate. Photo credit: Northern Forest Products Association
    • A healthy aspen stand in the San Juan Mountains in western Colorado is at risk as the climate changes. Photo credit: William Anderegg
    • Heat stress kills ponderosa pine in New Mexico. Photo credit: Craig Allen, USGS
    • The sudden Colorado aspen tree die-off near Fairplay, Colorado in 2009 has been linked to climate change. Photo credit: William Anderegg
    • Scientists seek more data to better predict climate impacts on this pinyon pine grove in New Mexico and forests elsewhere around the globe. Photo credit: Craig Allen, USGS
    • Drought triggered this forest die-off in Argentina in 2004. Photo credit: Thomas Kitzberger
    • Forests around the globe are at risk from climate change like this forest die-off in Spain because of a drought. Photo credit: Rafael Navarro-Cerrillo
    • Aspen, the most common tree in North America, is suffering from what scientists call sudden drought-induced death from climate change. Photo credit: Kimberly Pham
    • Scientists are monitoring this grove of Aspen in western Colorado to see how the trees respond to increasingly warmer temperatures. Photo credit: Kimberly Pham


    Trees provide a range of ecological services. They hold soil in place, help purify water and shelter species. They are valued for timber and tourism. When trees die, the ecology and hydrology of a forest change, which in turn promotes insect infestation and fire.

    This can result in long-term shifts in the area’s dominant species and may even trigger a transition to a different ecosystem, such as grass land.

    Devastating consequence

    Anderegg says the most devastating consequence may be that the changing forests, in turn, will start affecting the global climate.  

    “Because forests do a lot to stabilize the climate and to store carbon and when they start to die off, you can actually have forest die-off accelerate climate change," he says. "You get into a vicious cycle.”

    This is especially troubling for Anderegg because trees, which cover 30 percent of the earth’s surface, absorb 25 percent of the climate-changing gases emitted into the atmosphere from cars, buildings and factories.

    Forest monitoring

    While scientists are getting better at tracking the effects of climate change on forests, data is still sparse. Anderegg says his study urges governments and specialists from many disciplines to support wide-scale forest monitoring.  
     
    “It is not just ecologists, but we also need people working with satellites. We need people in government agencies. We need people on the ground to do this as well. It’s unfortunately not something that just the scientific research community can pull off on their own.”
     
    Anderegg, whose research is published in Nature Climate Change, says a better understanding of how climate change is killing off the world’s forests can help shape better forest management, business decisions and policies.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora