Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Climate change impact on US forests

Forests not only absorb vast quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), they also have other vital functions such as help retain rainwater and keep it from flowing down mountains immediately, not to mention the fact that they are areas of very rich biodiversity, and habitat for many plants and animals.

Climate change will no doubt have negative impact on all US forests but some forests will be more vulnerable to increased temperatures compared to others, and the most vulnerable forests in US will likely be the forests in Southwestern US. At least this is what the new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says.

Park Williams, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Geography at UC Santa Barbara, the lead author of this study, said that "forests in the Southwest are most sensitive to higher temperatures in the spring and summer, and those are the months that have been warming the fastest in this area."

In not just United States but in entire world it has been confirmed many times that higher temperatures lead not only to wildfires but also to insect outbreaks, for instance the well known bark beetle outbreak.

The researchers also predict that disappearing of forests will have have "large implications for everything from snowpack and the river flows that our society depends on, to the intensity and frequency of fires, to the visual appearance of these landscapes that drives much of the tourism in this region".

It will be very difficult to preserve the forests in the Southwest, and the forest managers should be already thinking about the possible strategies that would help these forests to at least up to some point adapt to climate change. Especially since saving forests means also saving many plants and animals that depend on these forests to survive.

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