Wildfire, Drought, and Insects: Climate Change Increases Risks of Tree Death

Planting a tree looks to be a good thing for the environment in general. After all, trees absorb carbon dioxide, helping to counteract some of the emissions that cause climate change.

However, if a forest fire burns down, all of the carbon in trees and forests throughout the world might be released back into the atmosphere. When trees die due to drought or insect damage, they stop cleaning carbon dioxide from the air.

According to recent study published in the journal Ecology Letters, the possibility of these dangers affecting forests is on the rise across the country, making reliance on forests to absorb carbon emissions a considerably riskier proposition.

“U.S. forests could look dramatically different by the end of the century,” says William Anderegg, research lead author and assistant professor at the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences. “More severe and frequent fires and disturbances have huge impacts on our landscapes. We are likely to lose forests from some areas in the Western U.S. due to these disturbances, but much of this depends on how quickly we tackle climate change.”

Wildfire, drought, and insects 

The researchers projected how the probability of tree loss from fire, climatic stress (heat and/or drought), and insect damage may grow throughout the course of the twenty-first century for forests across the United States.

Depending on carbon emissions scenarios, forest fire hazards in the United States might increase by four to fourteen times by 2099, according to the simulations. Over the same time period, the chances of tree loss and insect mortality caused by climate change might approximately quadruple.

Human activities to combat climate change, on the other hand, mattered a lot in those models—reducing the severity of climate change greatly lowered the fire, drought, and insect-driven forest die-off.

“Climate change is going to supercharge these three big disturbances in the U.S.,” Anderegg adds. “We’ve seen devastating fire seasons with increasing severity in the past several years. Generally, we expect the western U.S. to be hit hardest by all three of these. And they’re somewhat interconnected too. Really hot and dry years, driven by climate change, tend to drive lots of fires, climate-driven tree mortality, and insect outbreaks. But we have an opportunity here too. Addressing climate change quickly can help keep our forests and landscapes healthy.”
Wildfire, Drought, and Insects: Climate Change Increases Risks of Tree Death Wildfire, Drought, and Insects: Climate Change Increases Risks of Tree Death Reviewed by Lilit on May 26, 2022 Rating: 5
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