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Who’ll speak for the trees? Chapter 2

Let’s hope that Chapter 2 is not near the end of the book.

The first time that I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Who’ll speak for the trees?” was in July of 2008. The title, of course, refers to a question voiced by “The Lorax,” in a 1972 TV program by Dr. Seuss that so angered one industry (my guess would be “timber”) that “The Lorax” has seldom (if ever) been seen again on TV, even though it is quite relevant and educational (you can buy “The Lorax” on DVD – it is suitable for all ages). That blog entry also dealt with the “trees vs. solar collector” neighbor dispute in California in which SANITY (oddly enough :-) and perhaps for the first time) prevailed in the California Senate and Assembly.

I first wrote about “The Lorax” in April of 2008, when I mentioned a Silicon Valley company (which shall remain nameless) that cut down 6 redwood trees, including two redwoods that had been designated “Heritage Trees” by the city, in order to give the campus a “new look.” (They did. Sadly….)

(Note added January 26, 2009: I was glad to see “The Lorax” mentioned prominently [number 1] here!”)

Well, it seems that these were only MINOR examples of the human stupidity :-) that endangers trees in California (and elsewhere). In these examples, I talked about individual trees and people “who could not see the forest for the trees.” A study released today in the prestigious journal “Science” shows that tree death rates in forests in the Pacific Northwest are doubling every 17 to 29 years.

When I first saw TV coverage of the study, I was aghast! (It takes a lot to make me aghast. :-) ) I am not a “tree hugger,” but I understand a bit about the importance of trees, and I know a bit about biological systems. The data for the research was gathered by generations of scientists over a 50-year span at sites in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, and southwestern British Columbia. The publication is the first large-scale study of environmental changes contributing to the mortality of coniferous forests. Some 76 forest plots were monitored by a pretty basic technique – counting trees.

Timber industy, listen up, too, because the results are relevant to your business! The results may AFFECT YOUR BOTTOM LINE! (There, that should do it.) :-) (It would be nice to enlist the assistance of the timber industry in the battle against global warming.)

The study focused on pines, firs, and hemlocks. Forests with older growth have trees in all age groups, and the researchers found that death rates have increased for ALL age groups. Since mortality rates increased across the board, scientists could rule out a number of possible causes, including long-term effects of fire suppression, ozone-related air pollution, and normal forest dynamics.

California has the dubious distinction of having the highest tree death rate in the study.

Of the three kinds of trees studied, pines are dying the fastest.

The authors of the study (Phillip J. van Mantgem of the U.S. Geological Survey was lead author) conclude that “regional warming and increases in water deficits <I think that this is scientific “code” for “less water” :-) > are likely contributors to the increases in tree mortality.” According to van Mantgem, it is not clear whether tree species will be able to re-establish themselves in cooler climates fast enough to survive the rapidly rising temperatures.

The CNN article also describes the effect of rising temperatures on promoting invasive species and pathogens.

All things considered, temperature has a fundamental effect upon ALL chemical reactions. It is possible to kick (“perturb”) a system hard enough to tip it over.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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