An alarming new study reveals that every single forest in the U.S. is in danger from this looming threat.
Many parts of the U.S. are currently facing one of the worst droughts in recent memory, and it’s beginning to take a considerable toll on the environment. According to a report from CS Monitor, a recent study reveals that it may not just be forests in western states that have come under threat from drought; forests throughout the entire country are at risk.
The general consensus is that climate change will make droughts more frequent and intense in coming decades. As droughts spread east, warm and dry conditions can wipe out acres of trees, usher in massive bark beetle infestations, and leave conditions perfect for uncontrollable forest fires.
Researchers from 14 different institutions, including the US Department of Agriculture, the US Geological Survey, and Duke University authored the study, which warns that it’s not a matter of if, but when droughts will begin affecting forests throughout the country.
“While eastern forests have not experienced the types of changes seen in western forests in recent decades, they too are vulnerable to drought and could experience significant changes with increased severity, frequency, or duration in drought,” the scientists wrote.
As conditions become warmer and drier in a forest, the range of trees will extend north toward cooler air and a wetter environment. Scientists fear that if droughts descend rapidly on eastern US forests, many species won’t have time to creep to a more favorable habitat. In just a few years, deciduous ecosystems up and down the east coast could be devastated beyond belief.
Despite the grim prospects of the country’s forests ravaged by drought, the scientists acknowledged that nobody can predict how intense droughts will be and how soon they will come. The aim of the study was to establish a database of information about today’s forests. Land managers can use the information, gathered from hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, to make key decisions about how to best preserve forest resources in times of heavy drought.
The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, can be found here.