Our planet’s forests are adapting to global warming, as one would expect. But their trees are getting shorter and younger. And that’s going to continue for a long time.
A new study published in Science by scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), led by Dr. Nate McDowell makes a compelling case for this future. Ongoing environmental changes are transforming forests worldwide, resulting in shorter and younger trees with broad impacts on global ecosystems.
The team found that rising temperatures and carbon dioxide have been altering the world’s forests through increased stress and carbon dioxide fertilization and through increasing the frequency and severity of disturbances such as wildfire, drought, wind damage, human destruction and other natural enemies.Most Popular In: Energy
“This trend is likely to continue with climate warming,” said McDowell. “A future planet with fewer large, old forests will be very different than what we have grown accustomed to. Older forests host much higher biodiversity than young forests and they store more carbon than young forests.”
Combined with forest harvesting by humans, the Earth has witnessed a dramatic decrease in the age and stature of forests. Conservatively, well over 30% of forests have been lost globally over the last 100 years. And this will continue because clear-cutting, temperatures, droughts and pests are increasing.