Forest Death Rates Doubled on the West Coast

dead trees in forest photo

Photo via gmnonic

Since the 1970s, tree death rates have doubled on the west coast, according to research appearing in the journal Science. And the causes seem to be stress from drought and global warming. After decades of study, scientists have determined that rising temperatures - which therefore cause a lack of water - is to blame for the significant increase in tree death rates along the coastal states of Washington, Oregon and California, as well as in British Columbia and inland in Colorado.

The study examined forests older than 200 years old in the western states of California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Researchers ruled out air pollution and other factors for the increasing death rate.

"Average temperature in the West rose by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last few decades," researcher Phil van Mantgem said. "While this may not sound like much, it has been enough to reduce winter snowpack, cause earlier snowmelt, and lengthen the summer drought."

The fear is that this could lead to a vicious spiral - fewer trees to soak up CO2 means more global warming gases in the air, which means higher temperatures and therefore fewer trees.

While planting trees isn't the most direct way to save the planet, it certainly seems that along the west coast of North America, planting more trees as more die off certainly wouldn't hurt anything.

Via Earth Times
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