Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Holiday Greeting

Here is my list (swallowed for too many links, and of course it's only a partial list that I threw together) posted to a Climate Progress story about trees dying from bark beetles:

Pecan trees in Texas are dying too:

So are orange trees in Florida:

So are butternut trees in Canada:

So are apple trees and mistletoe in England:

Almond trees in California:

Maple trees from Ohio...

...to Vermont:

Douglas Fir in the Pacific Northwest:

Cork and Oak in Portugal:

Hemlocks in the southeast:

Horse Chestnuts in England:

kiwi trees in New Zealand and Italy:

salt marshes on Cape Cod:

which is especially interesting given the latest excuse for marsh plants dying around the Gulf -that the oil spill has intensified a fungus:


Trees are dying off all over the west in apparently healthy forests with no evidence of beetles:

"The study, led by authors from the United States Geological Survey and published in the journal Science, found the rate of tree deaths has more than doubled in the last few decades even in apparently healthy, well-established forests. Death rates have increased at all elevations, and for trees of all sizes and types, leading the researchers to worry that the U.S. may soon suffer massive and sudden die-backs of its seemingly healthy forests, a cascading effect that could release carbon dioxide into the air, further speeding global warming."

"Scientists have already witnessed mass tree deaths in American forests due to beetle infestations. Periodic outbreaks of Mountain Pine Beetle in Colorado, for example, has killed an estimated 7.4 million trees in the past decade. But the Science study, titled "Widespread Increase of Tree Mortality Rates in the Western United States," is the first to show A CREEPING DEATH RATE IN ANCIENT, WELL-ESTABLISHED CONIFEROUS FORESTS WITH NO EVIDENCE OF EPIDEMIC INFESTATIONS."

Does anyone see a pattern here?  Trees all over the world are dying, and it's being blamed on insects, fungus and disease.  Which is ludicrous, because scientific research has established three irrefutable facts that are crucial to this discussion:

1.  ozone damages vegetation - anything that has to photosynthesize

2.  the levels of background tropospheric ozone are inexorably rising

3.  trees and crops exposed to ozone are more likely to succumb to insects, disease, fungus, and extreme weather.  They lose their natural immunity that kept the presence of pathogens in balance.  They have AIDS, in other words.

It's about time that the experts start looking at the big picture and identify the underlying cause for trees of all species to be dying off, while there is still (a dwindling amount of) time left to rescue some survivors and propagate more.

We need to ration fuel on a wartime footing and convert to clean sources of energy.


  1. Spruce budworm is devastating western forests. In the east I recall reading about hackmatack/tamarack/larch ( one genus with many names ) dying at a great rate.
    And I recall the 'insect' story from when I lived in Medicine Hat, Alberta where bark was falling off trees in the parks by the river over a decade ago.
    This wasn't that many years after smog rolled across the area between the Cypress Hills and the Bear's Paw. When once you could see 60 miles perhaps you could see 2 from the heights. Meanwhile softwoods started to have dead needles, attributed to 'winter kill'...but why ?

  2. I will have to look into the tamarack, Opit. There are streets around here named for the tamarack, but in all the years I have lived here I have only seen two. They are both spectacular - I should check on them, it's been a while.

    The national parks all have problems with views being obscured by pollution, and are aware of the damage to trees. But in my opinion they aren't nearly sufficiently alarmed.

  3. Hi Gail. This is Deborah Stark from the Climate Progress Comments section. I finally have a few minutes this evening to look through your blog and I'm enjoying it very much.

    I share your deep concern regarding the health of our truly amazing variety of trees and have noticed myself (the last year in particular) that the leaves on many of the trees in my area look dull, blotchy, thin, discolored, dried out and so forth.

    We have had for the last five summers several long stretches with daytime temperatures in the upper-90's. This is very unusual for the Boston, MA area and it is very hard on the vegetation. These heat waves are generally accompanied by Ozone Alert days of which we've also had an increasing number since the early 90's. I swear I don't know how the trees have managed to stay as healthy as they are given the environmental stresses (including increasingly frequent wild temperature fluctuations) they are forced to endure.

    I would give just about anything to be able to quit my job and devote myself full-time to educating people on climate change-related issues. I've been studying, documenting and archiving for 10-12 hours a week since fall 1999. I am incredulous (understatement) that so little has been accomplished by our so-called leadership in all that time. I think we know why that is.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say hello and Happy New Year. Let's hope the EPA will survive the full-frontal assault it is about to receive from the incoming Republican contingent. I think we, the public, need to take a highly visible stand on this one.

  4. Thank you Deborah. I receive so little comments, every one is precious to me.

    I do realize that the disruptions in patterns of rainfall, even if the annual total is average, will have a terrible effect on plants, from annual crops to longer-lived species like trees.

    The most imminent problem though is from atmospheric pollution. There is no questions about this to my mind, since plants that are irrigated and aquatic plants are just as impacted as wild plants.

    I initially had a tremendous reluctance to acknowledge "pollution" as the source of tree decline, I'm noot sure why. It is so seamy, and so tainted, and s maligned with a "hippy" "treehugger" taint ,somehow socialist, or communist.

    Well, we have to come out as proud climate hawks, and proud environmental hawks too!

    I appreciate your comments, Deborah! Please send any more thoughts you may have!


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