Global Warming Could Snuff Out World Heritage-Listed Shirakami Forests by 2100


Image courtesy of Psymeg&Chooch; via flickr

A new report commissioned by the Japanese government predicts that the Shirakami Mountains' beech forests, a UNESCO World Heritage site, could succumb to global warming by the end of the century. An international team of 44 scientists from 14 research institutions gauged the potential effects higher average temperatures would have on Japan's water resources, forests, human health, coastal areas and agriculture.One of the first sites in Japan to be entered on the World Heritage list, the Shirakami Mountains contain one of the world's largest natural beech forests. The forests are home to many unique (and often threatened) species, including the golden eagle, Asiatic black bear, dormouse, Japanese serow and Japanese macaque.

Their climate model, which was developed by researchers at Tokyo University, estimated that temperatures would rise by 2.2°C by mid-century and by 4.3°C by century's end. As a result of the warmer temperatures, the scientists' model indicated that beech forests would decrease by 56% by mid-century and by 93% by century's end.

Because of their inability to adapt quickly enough, however, the Shirakami forests would be hit even harder: declining by 97.1% by mid-century and vanishing completely after 2081. The only remaining forests would be in the mountainous regions of Hokkaido and Honshu.

Their study also found that several areas, including Tokyo and Osaka, would be strongly affected by more frequent storm surges; the population put at risk is expected to rise to 1.37 million by 2100. Torrential rain incidents will also occur more frequently: Beginning in 2030, rain that would normally happen once every 50 years will instead happen once every 30 years.

Other island nations in the region will likely experience similar impacts over the coming decades. The human toll and devastation we've witnessed in countries like Burma and Indonesia could be just the beginning.

Via ::The Daily Yomiuri: Shirakami forests 'could vanish by 2100' (news website)

See also: ::Marijuana Crops Bad for Forests, Spotted Owl, ::Planting Trees Helps Fight Global Warming, but Only in the Tropics

Tags: Japan