A new report has revealed that some of the world’s oldest trees are dying at a fast rate.
The study, conducted by three of the world’s leading ecologists, was published in the journal Science. The devastating finding was that trees were dying due to forest fires, drought, high temperatures, logging and insect attack. It’s not just the death of the trees, but rather, the fact that the trees are dying at a rate 10 times what is normal.
“It’s a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest,” explained lead author David B. Lindenmayer, of Australian National University, in a release. “Large old trees are critical in many natural and human-dominated environments.”
The press release shares:
Prof. Lindenmayer says they were first tipped off to the loss of big old trees while examining Swedish forestry records going back to the 1860s. Then a 30-year study of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forest in Australia confirmed not only that big old trees were dying en masse in forest fires, but also perishing at ten times the normal rate in non-fire years – apparently due to drought, high temperatures, logging and other causes.
Looking round the world, the scientists found similar trends at all latitudes, in California’s Yosemite National Park, on the African savannahs, in the rainforests of Brazil, the temperate forests of Europe and the boreal forests of the far north. Losses of large trees were also pronounced in agricultural landscapes and even cities, where people make efforts to preserve them.
“It is a very, very disturbing trend. We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world,” says Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University. “Large old trees play critical ecological roles. They provide nesting or sheltering cavities for up to 30% of all birds and animals in some ecosystems. They store huge amounts of carbon. They recycle soil nutrients, create rich patches for other life to thrive in, and influence the flow of water within landscapes and the local climate.
The scientists call for “an urgent world-wide investigation to assess the extent of big tree loss, and to identify areas where big trees have a better chance of survival” to ensure that they don’t share the same fate as many endangered mammals. They recommend preservation programs to be implemented to ensure the trees are kept safe.