Mystery of the Disappearing Forest

Redwoods, Mt. Tamalpais, California. Caleb Slemmons, Univ. of Wisc, Stevens Point,

Redwoods, Mt. Tamalpais, California. Caleb Slemmons, Univ. of Wisc, Stevens Point,

by Olimpia Ferguson, Entomology major

Large trees are vanishing from the Californian wilderness at alarming rates of between 55-75 percent. There are various causes that can be linked to this phenomenon. These are intense wildfires, lack of water, and rising temperatures. These three changes are having an immense impact on wildlife in California.

Rising temperatures and lack of water are linked, causing earlier snowmelt and the loss of water to precipitation in the air. The older trees that occupy the forest grew and developed in the colder climates that were normal decades ago. Now that the climate is becoming increasingly warmer, the trees are finding it harder and harder to survive.

However, despite the decline in the older trees, we are seeing a new abundance arising in the form of oak trees. Oak trees thrive in hotter, drier climates which makes the rising temperatures of California a perfect place for them to set up shop. Along with these, scientists are observing an increasing number of smaller trees and shrubs that are flourishing in these regions. Forests once dominated by impressive large trees are being overcome by smaller trees that require less water. We must ask ourselves, how will the California drought continue to affect these forests, and will we eventually lose the majestic picturesque forest that we knew?

Learn more:
California’s Forests: Where Have All the Big Trees Gone? (National Geographic)

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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