Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as fast as they were 17 years ago

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SamLinder's picture
SamLinder
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Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as fast as they were 17 years ago

For those who don't believe in global warming (whether man-made or nature-made), here is a reality check:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/01/22/study.forests.dying/index.html

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cedar
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

Here in British Columbia the dying trees are the single biggest contributor to C02 in our province.

One example of a feedback loop.

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A. M.
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

Hey Sam,

As a person who literally lives "in" one of the aforementioned areas, I think a lot of it has to do with both second growth stands and the lack of thinning in the forests. I'm not trying to scapegoat these problems on natural causes, but from my view, that's a large part of the case.

I didn't and don't see anywhere that says that there is a specific blight or disease, which leads me to believe that this research is inconclusive.

We've had some extremely trying years in the Intermountain region in the last 10 years, which has caused a lot of downed trees. Many people don't know this, but centuries of shed coniferious sprigs, boughs and needles fall to the forest floor, and begin to decay. This causes the ground underneath to become soft, and we refer to it as "Rotten Rock".

It's not a particularly solid base for anything, and combined with more snow pack, there have been a significant number of trees downed. In addition to that, the second growth stands are starting to reach maturity, and the way humans planted them, sometimes right along side the decaying stumps of the original stands, created rot and weakened the soil structure.

Humans have been pushing farther and farther into the forests and looking in places that we previously hadn't really explored.
IMHO - we don't have an accurate reference point to say difinitively whether or not this is "unnatural"... Just like the Climate - we've only seriously been studying climate for 100 years!

I'm not a forester - though I hope to get my foot in the door when I have adaquete LE experience, but I think a lot of this can be attributed to:
a. Lack of thinning
b. Second Growth stands being of poor design
c. The Rotten Rock of the Sierra Nevadas/Cascades.

I wouldn't attempt to draw attention away from a serious issues regarding the forests - they're really a huge portion of my life and identity, but I think this is misleading.

Cheers!

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SamLinder
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

Hi Aaron,

Which "aforementioned area" do you live in? I'm in the Portland Metro area.

Aaron Moyer wrote:

Hey Sam,

As a person who literally lives "in" one of the aforementioned areas, I think a lot of it has to do with both second growth stands and the lack of thinning in the forests. I'm not trying to scapegoat these problems on natural causes, but from my view, that's a large part of the case.

If the forests studied are up to 500 years old, wouldn't that preclude issues with "both second growth stands and the lack of thinning in the forests."?  See bold/underlined section below:

The study primarily focused on three types of coniferous trees: pines,
firs and hemlocks. Older-growth forests -- some up to 500 years old --
have trees of all ages, and researchers found that mortality rates have
increased for all age groups. Since mortality rates went up across the
board, scientists ruled out a number of other possible causes,
including ozone-related air pollution, long-term effects of fire
suppression and normal forest dynamics.

Aaron Moyer wrote:

I didn't and don't see anywhere that says that there is a specific blight or disease, which leads me to believe that this research is inconclusive.

This segment indicates disease from invasive species could certainly be a factor due to warming:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
a scientific intergovernmental body, concentrations of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere are now at their highest levels for at least 650,000
years. Scientists on the panel say the increase began with the birth of
the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago.

The new research also
suggests that as trees die, they actually emit more carbon than they
absorb. Trees are key players in regulating climate because they
convert carbon dioxide, which they store in their trunks and roots, to
oxygen. Changes in climatic conditions or various diseases can cause
the gradual dying of plant shoots.

"The concern here is that these might be early warning signs of dieback," said Stephenson.

...

"Warmer temperatures cause earlier summer droughts, less snow pack, and
cause ideal breeding grounds for invasive species and pathogens," he
added.

"One hypothesis is that warmer climates can make it
easier for invasive species to reproduce and grow in these temperate
forests. If the trees are already under a lot of environmental stress,
they are more prone to serious insect attack," he said.

Aaron Moyer wrote:

We've had some extremely trying years in the Intermountain region in the last 10 years, which has caused a lot of downed trees. Many people don't know this, but centuries of shed coniferious sprigs, boughs and needles fall to the forest floor, and begin to decay. This causes the ground underneath to become soft, and we refer to it as "Rotten Rock".

It's not a particularly solid base for anything, and combined with more snow pack, there have been a significant number of trees downed. In addition to that, the second growth stands are starting to reach maturity, and the way humans planted them, sometimes right along side the decaying stumps of the original stands, created rot and weakened the soil structure.

Never heard of "Rotten Rock" before - guess us old dogs can still learn something new. ;-)

Aaron Moyer wrote:

Humans have been pushing farther and farther into the forests and looking in places that we previously hadn't really explored.
IMHO - we don't have an accurate reference point to say difinitively whether or not this is "unnatural"... Just like the Climate - we've only seriously been studying climate for 100 years!

I'm not a forester - though I hope to get my foot in the door when I have adaquete LE experience, but I think a lot of this can be attributed to:
a. Lack of thinning
b. Second Growth stands being of poor design
c. The Rotten Rock of the Sierra Nevadas/Cascades.

I wouldn't attempt to draw attention away from a serious issues regarding the forests - they're really a huge portion of my life and identity, but I think this is misleading.

Cheers!

I guess it's obvious that significant changes are definitely in play in our world. Whatever the cause, it's not pretty. :-(

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A. M.
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Posts: 2367
Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

Hey Sam!

I'm actually in the Gorge, just across the river from Cascade Locks.

You said:

Quote:

If the forests studied are up to 500 years old, wouldn't that preclude issues with "both second growth stands and the lack of thinning in the forests."? See bold/underlined section below:

Oddly, not really. It says "some" of the trees were that old. I know in the Giff there are "some" trees that are 500 years old, but it's not extremely common.

Lack of thinning creates a fire hazard because it allows the trees to more tightly pack a smaller area. Just like overpopulation, it's easier to ignite more of the surrounding forest if it's more densely packed. In addition to this, close packing of the canopy allows trees to die and stay standing... making the characteristic "Widowmakers". You know, those trees that look like they could fall over at any second?

The dry, rotten wood makes easy tinder.

Anyway, I see what you're saying, and without disecting each bit of the article, there is a lot of "tricky" language, and some subjective thoughts as well... for example:

1. As mentioned about "Some" of the trees were "500 years old" - well, how many? What percentage?
We don't have any "real" evidence to go with on this one.

2.

Quote:

"[bold]One hypothesis[/bold] is that warmer climates can make it easier for invasive species to reproduce and grow in these temperate forests. If the trees are already under a lot of environmental stress, they are more prone to serious insect attack," he said.

What are the other hypotheses?
Invasive insects leave larve, and pits in the trees. It'd be fairly obvious if that was the case - even on a microscopic level, I think there would be more "noticable" damages that could be associated with certain types of pests.

Anyway, I do agree with you about significant changes, and I perhaps I'm trying to be optimistic with the forest issue. I hope sincerely that it's just "natural causes". More evidence would be needed to really compel me into believing we're facing a crisis - and I hope we won't see it.

Cheers!

PS - we aught to have a Portland/Vancouver area "get together" forum. Exchange ideas and experiences.

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SamLinder
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...
Aaron Moyer wrote:

PS - we aught to have a Portland/Vancouver area "get together" forum. Exchange ideas and experiences.

Sounds like a good idea. I actually live in a tiny speck of unincorporated Washington County between Hillsboro and Beaverton. Send me an email and let's see what kind of "get together"  we can set up. Do you know any other CM'ers in our area?

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ckessel
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Joined: Nov 12 2008
Posts: 465
Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

Sam,

I live a bit south of you and Aaron in the Sierra Nevada Mts.of California. If you want to check out the impacts of another invasive species you can use Google Earth and go to Lat N 32 27 42 and Long 120 06 with an eye elevation of 30 miles. The largest private landowner in the state ( 1.7 million acres) is doing quite a job. If you look closely you will see that stands of trees visible from the highways are left alone to maintain the illusion that all is well in the forest.

I think a reduction of demands on our resources due the the economic downturn is a positive side to the story. It would be nice to leave something of value for future generations.

Coop

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Arthur Vibert
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

I was just listening to the radio on this exact subject (NPR, Micheal Krasny). Part of the problem seems to be that the warming means that winters are not as cold as they used to be, which means that the larvae of various beetles that are normally killed by extreme cold survive and breed and eat extravagently. There are various exotic pathogens that are also normally held in check by extreme cold that are now more common. Combined with the issues that Aaron raises this results in forests in serious crisis.

There are other issues related to massive forest die-off. Trees contribute to atmospheric moisture through a process called transpiration where water is drawn up from the ground and comes out from pores in the leaves which is analgous to human respiration. Forests actually create their own weather - rain forests are a good example of this. When forest are lost through fire, logging or disease the atmosphere in the vicinity typically becomes drier, measured to be as much as 10% in the case of some tropical rain forests. This can have an impact on water retention in watersheds as well, both because of a reduction in rainfall as well as root structure that holds topsoil intact. 

Whatever the cause of forest die-off may be, and it seems there are multiple causes, we should be concerned because it will ultimately affect us all.

Arthur 

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.
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

Hi Sam and Aaron,

   I'm in Oregon City.  It's nice to see some neighbors here in the forum. 

 

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Doug
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Re: Forests in the Pacific Northwest are dying twice as ...

I thought I'd put in a plug for eastern forests.  As I mentioned in another post nearly the entire forested area east of the Mississippi was clear cut  1-2 centuries ago.  Since agriculture has become less profitable in the northeast, much of the land has been returning to forest cover, most of it naturally.  Unlike the forests of the northwest, where I once lived, those in the east are much more diverse and mostly dominated by hardwoods.  Unfortunately, they are becoming less diverse all the time,largely because of manmade causes. 

One of the most significant species in the history of the east was the chestnut.  There were entire cultures dependent on the chestnut.  Now they're gone, except for a few miserable remnants that come up from roots and then die (chestnut blight).  The American Elm still grows in some abundance, but dies off long before they reach the majestic size that made them so popular along urban streets for so many years (Dutch elm disease).  Maples, particularly sugar maples, still dominate much of the eastern and northeastern forests, but are beginning to be decimated by the Asian Longhorn beetle, an invasive species.  It's not clear to me yet how devastating this will be.  Another dominant tree in the east, the ash, is being literally wiped out by the Emerald Ash Borer, another invasive species that was first identified in Michigan around 2002.  They are killing off every ash of every species as they expand their range.  They have been ID'd as far east as Maryland and Virginia and west to Missouri.  I read the other day that some official in Michigan has stated that ash trees are virtually extinct in the state.  Beech blight is slowly killing one formerly dominant species and Butternut blight another.

 American forests are in deep trouble and things don't seem to be getting better.  They are a national treasure the needs to be protected.

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