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Thread: Another climate feedback – trees

  1. #1 Another climate feedback – trees 
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    According to a paper in Science reported below, tree mortality is outpacing new tree growth in western North America. The most likely cause is warming of the climate which leads to drought, which we’ve experienced for the past eight or so years in Colorado. As trees die and decompose their stored carbon returns to the atmosphere, adding to the CO2 from fossil fuel burning and reinforcing the greenhouse effect.

    This study considers background mortality, not the sudden mortality we are already experiencing from bark beetle infestation. The latter has already killed millions of lodgepole pines and may also be connected to warmer temperatures. Recent winters haven’t been cold enough in the mountains to kill off the beetle larvae.

    http://www.denverpost.com/frontpage/ci_11532745

    We may not have many years left to enjoy scenes like this.



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  3. #2  
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    (nods) They just can't migrate North (though human activities are blocking this formerly successful strategy for animals), or climb to a higher elevation.


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  4. #3  
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    No mention of forest succession. I'm unsure what to make of that. I thought the forests were supposed to be in flux because of that ice age. And no mention of forest fire - I mean the artificial lack of that. Most of our forests are unstable in the first place.

    Well, picky picky, we should have anticipated more deaths because of recent warming anyway.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    No mention of forest succession.
    Trees die; new trees replace them. Isn't this what forest succession means? The problem being that the new trees may only live half as long as the ones they replace. Unless forest succession means something completely different then I don't understand your remark.

    By the way, there was hope that aspens would fill in the where the pines die, but now the aspens have a disease problem and are dying too. Not clear what the cause is.
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  6. #5  
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    but now the aspens have a disease problem and are dying too. Not clear what the cause is.
    It's those beetles, isn't it?

    "Previous research has linked the bark-beetle epidemic to climate change. Winter's coldest temperatures are not cold enough to kill the beetles, which have attacked forests from Alaska to the southwestern United States."

    Oh, or rather one of these:

    "Fungal diseases, such as Cytospora or other cankers which attack the trunk, are common, as are diseases of the foliage such as rusts, or leaf spots. Of the many insects that attack urban plantings of aspen, oystershell scale, aphids and aspen twiggall fly are most prevalent."
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  7. #6  
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    This quote is two years old and there may have been progress since then:

    There is no shortage of suspects. Forest experts, who met this month at a conference in Utah to discuss the problem and look for solutions, say it may be insects, drought or climatic stress in general or overgrazing by animals like elk and cattle. Or it may be none or all of the above.

    The aspen dieback is particularly baffling in that it seems to be occurring just in some Western states and is not affecting any neighboring trees, many of which already suffer from a plague of mountain pine beetles that has been devastating the West.
    But AFAIK the cause still isn't known for certain. (The worry is about natural aspen stands in the mountains rather than the rather pathetic attempts we sometimes make to urbanize them in our front yards.)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/sc...h/26aspen.html
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  8. #7 Re: Another climate feedback – trees 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury

    We may not have many years left to enjoy scenes like this.

    What no trees? Heck, we've got too many trees already. In fact we have 70% more trees now in the States than we did when the white man first came over and raped the land.

    Forest fires. The American Indians were forever running from fires, and when not they set them intentionally to flush game and rouse their enemies, and, because they were fun-loving, they usually had lots and lots of enemies.

    But beetles are killed by forest fires unlike most mature trees. I like forest fires because they are nature's way of being nature. But I don't like folks who lie about matters that are important.

    For example this man unintentionally lied and caused much grief among bat lovers for 60 years. Wow, in this report eight million non-existant bats were killed by the misinformation in this precocious report of Global Warming...

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/gene..._never_existed.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Trees die; new trees replace them. Isn't this what forest succession means?
    More like this:
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    aspens would fill in the where the pines die
    Succession is the gradual replacement of some species by others, after catastrophic reset like LOL a crushing ice sheet. First the so-called pioneers move in. These alter the conditions so that, ironically, other species may outcompete them. Not only tree species are at play here but also insects, soil fungus, even mammal species that may like one kind of forest or another. So the whole ecosystem is in succession, and of course this takes ages because individual trees live for centuries. Eventually a forest reaches "climax", meaning no further succession will occur. In Western North America the climax forests represent a small portion of total tree population and came about relatively recently. For example human settlement predates the "ancient" groves of thousand-year-old cedars... we humans arrived with the "weeds". I repeat, all the forests are still in flux. It is natural that some species will overpopulate, at their peril.

    The fact that forest fires were once normal cannot be overstressed. We know that human pioneers witnessed oppressively thick smog from forest/brush fires each summer; this diminished as roads and firefighting strategies improved. I think climatologists also should take note of that.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  10. #9  
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    Succession is the gradual replacement of some species by others
    An early effect of the loss of pine trees will be increased soil erosion. I wonder which species could fill in sufficiently to take up the carbon, which was the point of the OP, assuming the aspens can’t do the job, and given the elevation, the poor soil and the presumed continuation of drought?

    The fact that forest fires were once normal cannot be overstressed. We know that human pioneers witnessed oppressively thick smog from forest/brush fires each summer; this diminished as roads and firefighting strategies improved. I think climatologists also should take note of that.
    The article, and the paper (which I haven't read but assume the article accurately reports) specifically discusses increased mortality and reduced lifespan in areas unaffected by recent wildfires. I daresay climatologists are aware of wildfires. Scientists often try to study the effect of one variable at a time.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Succession is the gradual replacement of some species by others
    An early effect of the loss of pine trees will be increased soil erosion. I wonder which species could fill in sufficiently to take up the carbon, which was the point of the OP, assuming the aspens can’t do the job, and given the elevation, the poor soil and the presumed continuation of drought?

    The fact that forest fires were once normal cannot be overstressed. We know that human pioneers witnessed oppressively thick smog from forest/brush fires each summer; this diminished as roads and firefighting strategies improved. I think climatologists also should take note of that.
    The article, and the paper (which I haven't read but assume the article accurately reports) specifically discusses increased mortality and reduced lifespan in areas unaffected by recent wildfires. I daresay climatologists are aware of wildfires. Scientists often try to study the effect of one variable at a time.
    Uh, Bunbury, your "CLIMATOLOGISTS" reported that the mortality rate for the 59,000 trees that they...uh...studied, was only a 2% deviation from the mortality rate of similar woodlands. A statistical variance but well within the norm.

    BIG DEAL!
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  12. #11  
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    Let me put forth an idea that would lead to political suicide were I in any position of power: These problems exist because we don't burn down massive swaths of trees anymore. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_...an_use_of_fire

    This allowed many fungi and other infectious bugs to grow rapidly in number with nothing to prevent their growth. One might think the trees would have evolved to handle them or that they'd have natural predators, but ironically the slash and burn hunting/farming techniques of native americans helped to rid North America of many of those as well! Go "One with nature" myths!
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by milum
    Uh, Bunbury, your "CLIMATOLOGISTS" reported that the mortality rate for the 59,000 trees that they...uh...studied, was only a 2% deviation from the mortality rate of similar woodlands. A statistical variance but well within the norm.
    You're pretty quick to lump everything together I notice. I doubt very much climatologist had anything to do with this study--they generally don't study trees :-)

    Even taken at face value within 2% could simply mean "similar woodlands" are also dying at a rapid rate.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    An early effect of the loss of pine trees will be increased soil erosion. I wonder which species could fill in sufficiently to take up the carbon, which was the point of the OP, assuming the aspens can’t do the job, and given the elevation, the poor soil and the presumed continuation of drought?
    We're planting more of the same trees. Lodgepole pines. :? We did get a remarkably deep cold period this winter, that might knock the beetle down.

    wildfires
    Sorry I'm kinda obsessed with forest fire.

    British Columbia has recognized the fire hazard of infested pines and puts special effort into preventing fire in those stands. In other words we're protecting the beetles from natural consequence of their overabundance. Isn't that just... :x But we gotta protect the neighbouring timber licenses from loss of marketable logs don't we?

    Darius you're right on about the political impossibility of allowing fire to spread naturally. Some very small infestations we do skid into a pile and burn, during the wet winter.

    ***

    I really know little about the beetles themselves. I tried to find sign of them around sick (red) pines, in what I assumed was beetle infested stand. Something I did find was copious fungus under the brush, with a seemingly unsustainable density of ants swarming through that. Rooted near several trees and same finding. I thought the ants might be eating fungus & transporting spores, and this could be a parallel vector & disease.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  15. #14  
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    Yes the landscape the white settlers first saw was largely shaped by Indians The belief that they were entering a pristine wilderness is mistaken. It's quite well covered in "1491" by Charles Mann.

    The beetle infestation might well have been much less severe if the tree density was lower. It's not clear that the subject of the OP is related to suppression of burning, although it's certainly a possibility.
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  16. #15  
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    The solution is very obvious: LET LOGGERS ACTUALLY DO THEIR JOB. Protection of the environment is one thing, halting an entire business on weak grounds is another.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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  17. #16  
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    <irony>We do let loggers do their job. We protect forestry jobs by fighting forest fires.</irony>
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  18. #17  
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    RealClimate has picked up this topic, and there's a pretty good debate following the article.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php...hain/#more-649
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  19. #18  
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    The life span of trees in the western United States has been cut in half, and the likely cause is climate change, according to the most extensive research yet on the life span of pines, firs and hemlocks.

    The death rate of trees in Colorado, California and the Pacific Northwest has more than doubled since 1955 as warmer temperatures have led to less moisture and severe drought, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.
    What is true for one locality is not necessarily true for the rest of the world. So says the climate scientists. But they do not hesitate to break this rule when it suits their agenda. I for one will set the record straight. We are having record low temperatures in California.
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