Archive for the ‘forests’ Category

Faster Than Expected

March 18, 2008

BBC reports that some of the world’s glaciers are melting twice as fast as they were just 10 years ago.  “In its entirety, the research includes figures from around 100 glaciers, with data showing significant shrinkage taking place in European countries including Austria, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.”

In a second report today, University of Vermont ecologist Brian Beckage discusses changes in the forests of Vermont: “Scientists have long thought it would take generations if not centuries for tree populations to shift in response to a warming world.”

One of Beckage’s graduate students, Ben Osborne, measured significant shift of the transition zone, where deciduous hardwoods, like sugar maples, must give way to boreal conifers, like balsam fir.

“Acid rain damaged trees, creating openings in the forest canopy,” Beckage says, and this might have accelerated the hardwoods’ uphill push.

There’s an important message in these two reports. The thing is, scientists are trained to study in depth one small thing in one field. And so they point to this one thing and say, “well, warming temperatures won’t change the forests quickly, because trees live for tens of decades.” They don’t take other climate change factors into consideration, such as acid rain, insect attack, and increased forest fires.

And the problem with that is that we have a lot of scientists out there telling people that there is cause for concern, but no need to panic, eh? We have plenty of time to get our ducks in a row…