The USGS and some universities have been studying the mortality rate of Western old-growth forests over the past few decades, and just released some pretty bad news — the forests’ death rate has doubled, and they now lose more trees per year than they gain.
The study found forests in the Pacific Northwest were the worst hit — their mortality rate doubled in just 17 years. California forests had their doubling in 25 years, while areas further inland took 29 years to get hit, but no area, elevation, or species has been left unaffected.
Researchers blame rising temperatures for the changes, which reduce the amount of snowpack while also offering a more habitable climate for Mountain Bark Beetles. In turn, this fuels bigger fires, which now have a longer fire season due to the increased temperature. The Earth sure does love those feedback loops.
Hopefully with the new Administration in office, we can actually get some work done on tackling the greenhouse gasses at the root of these problems, as well as devote the necessary resources to preserving our public forestlands. Gov. Schwarzenegger is already bothering the President. Hopefully this new report will, too.
Otherwise, Modern Hiker may just become a web museum of how the Angeles National Forest used to be.