Monday, December 3, 2012

Malevolent Maples Destined for Oblivion

For most of my life, I had always thought of the world as a splendid, benevolent, and resilient place.  I remember when I was young going out to the lawn with an iron tool.  It had a turned, grooved wooden handle, and at the end of the long spike, rusty under chipped paint, was a sharp forked tip.  My job was to gouge out the stubborn deep taproots of the shiny, noisily yellow dandelions...before they turned into sparkly floating snowflakes that made wishes come true.  If there were chemical herbicides available back then, we couldn't afford to buy any - but there was plenty of time.  Time to weed the lawn, time to think there would always be time...and always be dandelions, and always, trees, birds and butterflies.

Then I grew up and eventually realized the trees are dying - and time has almost disappeared along with many of the birds and butterflies...currently, an extinction rate of 200 species per day.

These pictures are from Central Park in New York, taken November 19 after I went to court for my arrest at Occupy.  This magnificent English elm stands at an entrance on Fifth Avenue.
I had never ventured to this side of the park before - north of the Metropolitan Museum - and was startled when I saw a map, at how enormous it is.  What marvelous visionaries set this oasis aside in the middle of a packed city.  It is 843 acres - 2.5 miles long and .5 mile wide.
Central Park
In this picture you can see the Museum, the low white complex surrounded on three sides by trees, just past the edge of the big blue reservoir.  From there I had walked north on the sidewalk until I came to the entry with the elm tree, which is in the middle of the narrow band of trees on the left.  The pictures for this post came from the return walk to the museum subway stop along the reservoir, just a tiny portion of the grounds...and so much dead stuff to record.
Looking South

This is a tremendously impressive specimen, I could have admired it all day.
Upon close inspection its leaves are damaged.
On that day in late November, all the leaves that had not yet fallen - on every sort of tree, shrub and even weed - exhibited injury rather than autumn color.  This is hugely significant, as we shall see towards the end.
Following is an amusing illustration of CO2 emissions.  Of course, as fuel is burned not only CO2 is released, so are the precursors to the tropospheric ozone that is damaging the leaves of trees.

The Open Mind blog ran a story about the increase in wildfires out west, so I stupidly leapt into the discussion with my standard comment along the lines that trees are dying everywhere from air pollution, not only those regions where there is drought.  I should know better than to get embroiled with people blinded by CO2, because I received the usual onslaught of criticism and snide references implying something suspiciously and nefariously un-peer-reviewed about my *blog* which was odd, now that I think about it, since we were *on* a blog.  To his credit, the *blog* host Tamino let the discussion run on for quite a while, but still the episode has had me so depressed since it began I couldn't bring myself to publish anything all week at Wit's End...if scientists refuse to acknowledge that trees are dying from pollution, what hope is there that ordinary citizens or climate deniers will see it?  My last posting there was moderated into the cyberspace void, so here is the last comment I responded to, followed by my answer:
I’m in England and don’t recognise any mysterious mass decline/mortality in trees here and neither have I seen any scientific studies pointing to some environmental link between the specific diseases that have struck.
Part of the problem in my opinion is that many of the tree genera of the Holarctic have different species in North America, Europe and East Asia that are similar enough to be attacked by each others’ pathogens, but are without the resistance of the tree species in the pathogen’s natural range.
For example, when Chestnut Blight was accidentally introduced to North America from Asiatic Castanea species around 1900, it killed most of the Castanea dentata trees, numbering several billion, over the next few decades as the American trees had little or no resistance.
I don’t think the 19th Century plant hunters are comparable with today’s trade in plants because of the scale: the plant hunters would have brought back a few plants, but more likely seeds, while today the scale of plant movements is vast. The more plants are moved around the world, the more likely it is that pathogens will be be brought with them.
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    A few days ago I was invited to lunch by a self-described conservative Republican (I’m not even sure he’s not a climate-change denier) very successful stock analyst who had read a post-Sandy comment linking back to my blog.
    Based on his own experience from having designed an analysis that rather famously revealed inconvenient book-cooking regarding the profits and value of corporate stocks, he said he believes my “hypothesis” as it has been described – that ozone underlies forest decline – is correct. He also recounted a story which I came home and googled, since I never had heard about how the medical orthodoxy about the cause of ulcers was overturned:
    “‘Any new discovery in science is going to be controversial and initially most people won’t believe it because you are going to be knocking over some kind of dogma,’ Dr. Marshall told reporters in Australia after the announcement [that he won the Nobel].”
    “‘We were surprised that it took so long to be accepted but really for the last few years we’ve become vindicated,’ he said. ‘It has become mainstream treatment in Australia and in most countries.’”
    “In the years since the discovery, other researchers have investigated the role of H. pylori in stomach cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer.”
    Some day in the not too distant future – maybe in the spring when trees don’t leaf out, even in areas with plenty of precipitation and no alien pathogens, you will all look back at this exchange and say, “duh”.
    I promise then I will try so very, very hard not to say “Zawacki is a Verb That Means I Told You So.”
I didn't reply directly to English Ed's first sentence where he claims not to "...recognise any mysterious mass decline/mortality in trees here" because frankly you'd have to be willfully deaf, dumb and blind to NOT notice what is nothing short of panic, about truly epic tree death in the UK.  Every newspaper is running story after story, and the government is having emergency meetings about what one forester dubbed a "tidal wave of pathogens".  Naturally the "experts" are blaming insects, disease and fungus because, unlike their American counterparts, they can't blame drought:

One English reporter traced the ash plague to Denmark, which certainly hasn't been in drought either, and interviewed a Danish forester about the economic impacts of their near-total loss of ash trees, well ahead of the attack in the UK.  He says, pointing to the rotted center:

"This is not the Chalara fraxinea fungal's classic because it's secondary infections - the weakened tree is much more susceptible and that in the end is what's killing so much of the ash."  Then the forester points out, "You can see here on the rings, they haven't been growing FOR YEARS."  Perhaps we're getting closer to the truth that the fungus isn't actually capable of killing the tree.  That "for years" is also interesting because the English foresters are trying to make out like there is sudden, almost instantaneous death from imported fungus when in fact, tree growth is slowed FOR YEARS by ozone, weakening them internally, stunting roots, and  allowing opportunistic fungus, disease and insects to finish them off.  Below is the text of the story that accompanies the video, along with photos I took of damaged leaves while roaming New York and Central Park.

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The UK's 80 million ash trees are under threat from the spread of ash dieback disease. And experts may not find much comfort from Denmark, where they have been struggling against the fungal infection for a decade.

The humble ash tree has always enjoyed an elevated position in Denmark. Generations of school kids have been told and retold that it is tree of life - essential to the health and welfare of this country's landscape and culture.

It is a story Moreton Kyelmann, a guide at the Danish Museum of Hunting and Forestry, regularly gives to pre-school children. These days he spares them some of the darker detail: "In Old Norse mythology, the tree of life is the most important thing of all. It connected everything.

"The legend is that when the ash tree dies, the world will fall as we know it. It will be the end of the Earth."
The sad fact for Denmark today is that the ash trees are disappearing. The Chalara fraxinea fungus which causes ash dieback was first discovered in Denmark in 2002.
By 2005 it had spread across the entire country. Today at least 95% of ash trees here are either dead, or dying because they have the disease.

'Financial disaster'
For foresters like Anders Grube, the disease is a management nightmare. Many of his ash trees have already been cut down - the timber worth a fraction of the price he was getting before the fungus arrived.

"It is a disaster. I am losing lots of trees and lots of money. In this forest I have lost about a million pounds," he says.
"Before this disease we were getting double the money for ash we are getting now. I am lucky I can sell to China, but I am only getting half the price."

Ash dieback also causes big problems for those who rely on a steady supply of ash wood.
Jeremy Cooke talks to a private forester about how ash dieback is affecting business.
The PP Mobler workshop looks and feels like something from the 1950s. It's all handtools and smell of sawdust.

The high-end, hand-made furniture they make here relies on the strength, flexibility and colour of Danish ash. Manager Kasper Pedersen says there's enough in store for just three more years of production.

"We don't know the exact consequences yet. If it really comes to a point when all of the European ash forests disappear, then we really will have a hard time.

"It will be a great loss. It will be like losing something really valuable.... We can live without it, but it will be a great loss."
If the message from Denmark is bleak, there is also hope. A very few ash trees - maybe 2% - seem to be naturally resistant to the killer fungus.

When such trees are identified, specialist tree climbers are despatched to climb 20m and higher into the canopy to collect the seeds. The idea is to conduct detailed, scientific trials to establish whether their apparent immunity is passed on to their offspring.

Prof Erik Kjaer, of the University of Copenhagen, warns that the experience in Denmark suggests that Britain too will find it impossible to halt the spread of the disease. Instead, the focus, he says, is on finding survivors with natural immunity to provide the ash trees of the future.

"It is a terrible disease and this is the only kind of optimism I can offer the UK - there seems to be some kind of resistance and maybe it can work. But of course this is based on a very pessimistic view that the vast majority of trees seem to be highly susceptible.

Back at the university's greenhouses and laboratories there is intense activity. Hundreds of metre-high saplings are being deliberately infected with the disease so scientists can watch how it develops, and establish which of the clones are genetically immune.
But PhD student Lea McKinney believes the real key to finding a cure lies deep in the heart of the nation's state forests.

"The idea is that we want to go and collect these individuals in the forest and then we will graft them and put them in new seed orchards and this will be used to make new trees for the future."
Below is a closeup of leaves on the shrub in the lower right of the first picture.
Along one section, I found a series of trees engaged in the most amazing contortions.
This is one of the younger, higher branches with bark closer to the way it should look.
One of the leaves:
In a BBC video headlined "Fight to Save Britain's Ash Trees from Killer Fungus", a representative from the Woodland Trust says:  "I don't think the government has done enough in the face of a whole series of threats to our ancient woodlands and our native trees.  Ash disease is just one of a long line of problems that we're facing."

Yet another article, in the Telegraph, begins with the statement:  "Ash dieback came after tree disease already at record high...Outbreaks of tree disease in England were at a record high this year – even before ash dieback was discovered in the country, according to the Forestry Commission."  It continues:

Ash dieback is now in 184 sites around Britain, mostly in East Anglia.

But even before the deadly disease was found for the first time, plant health experts were struggling with at least 25 tree diseases spreading around the country.

One of the most destructive tree diseases is phytophthora ramorum or sudden oak death.
Despite its name, the disease mostly affects larch, but will also kill off garden shrubs like viburnum. Since 2010 around four million larch trees have been felled.

The Forestry Commission have issued 137 Statutory Plant Health Notices to landowners warning of the disease so far this year, meaning they have had to fell even more infected trees.

This is more than any other previous year in total.
At the same time around 100 plant health notices have been issued for other diseases this year including bleeding canker, that attacks conker trees, and red band needle blight, that threatens pines.

This year Asian Long-horn beetle was found breeding in maple and poplar trees in Kent for the first time and chestnut blight, that could wipe out our sweet chestnuts, was found in nurseries in East Sussex and Warwickshire.

The Forestry Commission England said the total was likely to be the most disease outbreaks the agency have ever had to deal with.
And then came ash dieback - that could wipe out Britain's 90 million ash trees.

Robin Maynard, campaigns director for the Countryside Restoration Trust, was not surprised tree disease was at a record high before ash dieback arrived.

He blamed the globalisation of the plant trade that is bringing in new diseases from abroad and the trend for “instant landscaping” that means gardeners demand exotic fully-grown trees.

“The horticultural trade has increased massively but inspection and biosecurity measures have not," he said.

"England is already the least wooded country in Europe; the plague of pests and diseases breaching our borders and now able to survive under the warmer, wetter conditions brought by climate change threatens to erode our country’s tree-scape further."

Prof Michael Shaw, of the University of Reading, pointed out that funding for research and training has gone down as the threat has increased.

“We have had more invasions in the last ten years than in the previous century at the same time that staff and students [of plant pathology] at universities have been falling," he said.
Mary Creagh, shadow environment minister, said the Forestry Commission budget will be cut from £47.5 million in 2010/11 to £36.2m in 2014/15.
She claimed 530 staff posts have already been cut, including 38 posts in Forest Research which investigates tree diseases.

She said the lack of funding, despite the growing risk of tree disease, will make it more difficult to protect the countryside.

“This is another sign of the catastrophic inertia and incompetence at the heart of Government,” she said.

There are two more videos focused on the ash here, and here that ought to make it pretty clear that English Ed inhabits a uniquely insulated bubble, as does a long and petulant article titled "Bungled Fungals" in the Financial Times.  The author, Robin Lane Fox, wrote that the government is engaged in "too little too late".  He seems to think everything could be controlled if only they sprayed more  -  "There are fungicides waiting only for a licence which can attack this sort of epidemic. It is a fungus, after all, not a baffling insect" he claims indignantly.  However, he provides a handy summary of tree problems which are clearly not limited to ash.  You would think people in the UK, so frantic about one species after another, would wonder if there isn't something systemic going on, but no.  Easier to blame immigrants, and the government:

"Thanks to Kew and the IDS I am now up to date on infections recently recorded on widely grown woodland trees in Britain. They are far worse than I believed when being gloomy here in September before any crisis was being politically discussed. Native alder trees, our Alnus glutinosa, have a deadly pathogen which has already wiped out millions of them in Germany. Corsican pines have a needle blight, new since the late 1990s, which leaves them looking like dead poles. Horse chestnuts, of course, are at risk to a deadly bleeding canker, while the fast-breeding leaf miner has been sapping their energy since 2002. Japanese larch trees are increasingly infected with spores of the killer Phytophthora ramorum and are being felled by the thousand. Fast-growing nothofagus has another deadly pathogen from the same family. Since 2010, yet another pathogen in this broad group is killing Lawsons cypress. Since 2011 native junipers in ancient clusters in Scotland are turning brown and dying off. In 2011 sweet chestnut blight at last showed its lethal head in Britain after 60 years of anxiety among tree watchers that it might cross over from southern France. As in the US, our hemlocks are being killed by fast breeding insects. Rhododendrons on the west side of Britain are plagued with the killer phytophthora too, and it has now transferred on to wild blueberries on heathland. In the face of these other crises, ministers have sat and watched."
The park doesn't appear alarming as long as you ignore the leaves.
Look how tiny the people appear on the path!
He also reports:  "In the nationalised park of Rigolin near Poznań [Poland] there are 1,500 superb ancient oaks, a global treasure. They are now being killed by a boring beetle. This borer, a cerambix, cannot be controlled because another committee of the EU, the one for eurobugs, has registered it as a rarity and given it a protection order."

"East Asia, too, has been generous with consignments of natural born killers, but the EU inspectors have failed to keep them out. Their plant health protocol is drawn up to facilitate “free trade”, but not to protect the environment. It needs to be put in a euro-incinerator along with all the infected canary palm trees in southern Spain. Far tougher rules are needed, and meanwhile we all need to grow more ourselves and import far less. It is a nightmare which nobody imagined back in 1970, but I can see the political chance of a lifetime in Britain. Six months ago I might even have said, “Robin’ll fix it.” Next week I will set out my master-plan, giving specific products for gardeners and tree owners who are living in terror of attack. Meanwhile our government’s plan for new high-speed links by rail will spread chalara even faster in the slipstream of its trains."

You can see that Robin Lane Fox isn't fond of tax-payer subsidized high-speed rail, planned in part to reduce pollution from airplanes (and mostly used by people so unclassy they only use two names), so he announces that it will kill trees with much the same glee that climate change deniers claim wind turbines kill birds...oh and if environmentalists really care about carbon emissions we should embrace nuclear power.  His master-plan turned out to be a tirade that scornfully offered a "crushing answer to devoted 'organic' fantasists" with swooning plaudits for various chemical remedies manufactured by the likes of Bayer.  I guess I am not alone in thinking his "master-plan" as described in "A Modest Proposal" (isn't he clever?) is overly hasty with the chemical solutions since one reader, Mr. Peter Mahaffey of Obersasbach, Germany, wrote to the Editor of FT:

"Sir, Robin Lane Fox advocates chemical kills for the whole host of tree diseases now threatening our European landscapes. How extraordinary that a committed gardener does not start with biological solutions. For example, he proposes repeated, expensive, toxic spraying for the leaf miner moth which attacks horse chestnut trees."

"Yet, the affected horse chestnut outside our house exhibits an interesting phenomenon. At certain times in the summer, presumably when the grubs of the parasitic moth hatch, the tree becomes absolutely alive with blue tits, which are clearly feasting on the new insects. Our answer is to go out of our way to be nice to blue tits each winter so that they are in fine fettle to carry out their biocontrol in the summer!"
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports:  "Britain's Christmas tree plantations hit by mysterious killer fungus - Britain’s Christmas trees have been hit with a virulent fungal disease amid fears it could threaten entire plantations, experts warned today."

The mysterious disease, called current season double needle necrosis (CSNN), turns needles brown during the summer before they drop off.  It is thought the disease was imported from the Caucasus in the seeds of Nordmann firs, the species that accounts for four in five Christmas trees sold in Britain.

While relatively few trees have been hit this year, there has been a reported surge in cases since 2009 with no fungicide yet found to halt itMore than 150 growers across the country have been affected with the majority reporting damage to up to three per cent of their stock.

But some have reported more than 15 per cent of their crops have been damaged, with one farmer experiencing a third of his crop being killed. Many have lost tens of thousands of pounds in lost trees...

Colin Palmer, an adviser to the BCTGA, has found disease in some of his own trees growing near Ledbury, Herefordshire.

He added: “The disease is puzzling. It is connected to a fungus, Sydowia polyspora, which has been around for 30 years without a problem."

“We used to see trees lose their needles after strong sunshine. It was like sunstroke – annoying but not serious.  But it has gone from benign to aggressive and we are trying to find out why. It has gone from affecting one or two trees to affecting many."

" fungicide yet found to halt it".  Maybe the problem isn't really fungus??

All this fungus isn't good for crops and bodes ill for food supplies and prices, reports Bloomberg News with the headline:  UK Winter Wheat Shows Worst Fungus Symptoms Ever Recorded.
On our side of the pond, the Caribbean islands are losing palms:

ST. JOHN'S, May 24 2012 (IPS) - Something is decimating the coconut and other palm trees here and no one seems to know exactly what it is.

“In the last couple of months we have been receiving calls from people indicating that their palm trees – some coconut, some ornamental palms – have been dying, and in our investigations we have found a situation that is affecting the crown area of the palm and causing rapid death,” explained Dr. Janil Gore Francis, head of the Plant Protection Unit.

“We have been collecting samples, trying to look at what we are finding to see if there are any insects, if there are any signs of any fungal infestation, trying to determine the exact cause,” she told IPS, “but up to now we have not been able to definitively say what the problem is.
Witchhazel, blooming two months ahead of schedule - leaves remain
“But we are doing some work in the lab to see if we can isolate anything from the diseased material or from the affected material,” Gore Francis said.

The coconut palm serves a multi-functional role in the Caribbean region, where it is commonly grown.  Small-scale production of products from the tree makes an important contribution to food security. At the industrial level, the coconut industry is an important source of employment and income in rural communities.

The coconut palm also aids in the prevention of coastal erosion while providing charming landscapes that are attractive to both tourists and locals.  While there are no commercial coconut farms in Antigua, coconut trees can be found on many beaches and elsewhere around the country.

Some of the trees have survived many storms and hurricanes.
Officials say the coconut may not only help to preserve health, but also boosts Antigua’s economy. Locals bottle and sell the coconut or “jelly” water which they say can flush out kidney stones and lower blood pressure.

But over the past six months, the coconut trees have been falling prey to the mysterious disease, forcing local officials to turn to their regional counterparts for help.

“We are in the process of making arrangements with a regional organisation to get some assistance from outside to come in and help to assess the situation,” Dr. Gore Francis said.
The scourge was first identified in the north of the island and appears to be steadily spreading.

The coconut palm is affected by a number of diseases, some of which are lethal while others gradually reduce the vigour of the palm causing severe loss in yield.

Diseases known to affect coconut palm include bud rot, leaf rot, stem bleeding, root (wilt) disease, tanjavur wilt, mahali, crown chocking, leaf blight or grey leaf spot and tatipaka disease.

Dr. Gore Francis said that her division is pursuing the hypothesis that the browning and withering of coconut and decorative palm trees in the area stretching from Dickenson Bay to Flagstaff may be caused by an insect.

While this is not the only possibility being investigated, she said that the Plant Protection Unit has extracted the larvae of an as-yet- unidentified insect from infected palm trees in the affected areas and steps are being taken to incubate the larvae to the adult stage, thus allowing for positive identification of the creature.

The agriculture official said this would permit the Plant Protection Unit to reach a positive diagnosis of the infestation and take steps to treat the palms.

She said this campaign will hopefully arrest the spread of the browning, withering plant disease, if not completely eradicate it.
Paul Hoetjes, policy coordinator for nature in the ministry of economic affairs, agriculture and innovation in the Netherlands, told IPS that what is happening to palm trees in Antigua is not unique to the island.

“This sounds very similar to the disease currently killing off coconut palms on St. Eustatius, which is not a mystery disease but a well-known scourge called lethal yellowing disease, widespread in the Americas, Caribbean and Africa,” he said.

“It is caused by a phytoplasma, a bacteria-like organism and spread by an insect, the plant hopper (Myndus crudus). The disease can be prevented or even cured at an early stage by injecting the tree with a tetracycline-type antibiotic, but this is only suitable for ornamental coconut palms, not for trees that produce coconuts for consumption.”

But Dr. Gore Francis said that while palm trees on the island are subject to adverse effects of such common parasites as aphids and whitefly, these “ordinary” pests are nowhere near as virulent as the still unidentified disease.
She noted that aphids and whitefly do cause yellowing and browning of palm fronds. However, these effects are normally observed on mature palm branches. Even when affected by these insects palms will continue to thrive, grow and bear fruit.

The Plant Protection Unit said farmers and homeowners should treat their plants against parasitical insect infestation, but should not worry unduly unless the yellowing, browning and withering is observed on fresh, emerging fronds.

“This phenomenon signals the presence of the deadly, still unknown insect. If left untreated the disease will lead to the eventual death of the affected plants,” it said.

The coconut produces a variety of products which are consumed in the region and internationally. These include fresh green and dry nuts, copra, coconut oil and coconut water among others.

According to the Coconut Industry Market Intelligence Report which was commissioned as part of the CARICOM Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture, the high price of petroleum-based fuel has brought about a renewed interest in the use of coconut oil for conversion into bio-fuel with the main focus being on the commercial products from the regional industry.
This bald cypress should be a pyramidal shape, like an evergreen, even though it sheds its needles annually.  It isn't, because the park service is constantly having to remove dead branches, which is what all those dark spots are from on the trunk below.
Another severely pruned tree is just beyond the beech that is corroded with cankers.
Trees everywhere in the city have to be drastically amputated.  The rot inside the branches is evident.
I was wondering how some of the little gardens could be so green and then I went passed one that had just been sprayed.
Since one of the primary effects from exposure to ozone is a weakened immunity to attacks from insects, disease and fungus, decline can be averted - to a certain extent - with chemical treatment.
Unfortunately, that is a solution that cannot be applied to the entire ecosystem.
The azalea is trying to bloom!
Despite Ed's confession that he has never seen a link between tree disease and environmental pollution, they are readily located...even in Mexico.

Environ Pollut. 2007 Jun;147(3):446-53. Epub 2007 May 2.
A review of ozone-induced effects on the forests of central Mexico.
Instituto de Recursos Naturales, Colegio de Postgraduados, Carretera Los Reyes-Texcoco, Montecillo, Edo México, México.
"The first report on oxidant-induced plant damage in the Valley of Mexico was presented over 30 years ago. Ozone is known to occur in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area and elsewhere as the cause of chlorotic mottling on pine needles that are 2 years old or older as observed in 1976 on Pinus hartwegii and Pinus leiophylla. Visible evidences for the negative effects of ozone on the vegetation of central Mexico include foliar injury expressed as chlorotic mottling and premature defoliation on pines, a general decline of sacred fir, visible symptoms on native forest broadleaved species (e.g. Mexican black cherry). Recent investigations have also indicated that indirect effects are occurring such as limited root colonization by symbiotic fungi on ozone-damaged P. hartwegii trees and a negative influence of the pollutant on the natural regeneration of this species. The negative ozone-induced effects on the vegetation will most likely continue to increase."

One of the commenters at Open Mind suggested that it was only to be expected that the trees that fell over in Sandy, a large hurricane with a huge surge but not notable for being especially windy, were rotted on the inside because - of course! - the rotted trees would be most likely to fall.  How can I respond to something so idiotic when the entire point is, that it is completely abnormal and unnatural for trees to be rotting on the inside in the first place - unless they're far older than the trees that have regenerated since the Eastern Seaboard was clearcut more than once?  By way of inadvertent testimony, this photo was posted in anticipation of Sandy's approach, and is actually of a tree from last spring's derecho that had everyone in a dither from all the downed trees and power lines.  The same mentality prevailed - huge numbers of trees down, power out, ergo, must be unprecedented wind.  Four times in recent memory people have told me their tree was knocked down by a tornado, even though no one witnessed said tornado.  They just can't imagine why else the tree would collapse.
The Boston Globe did a recap of the tree damage from Sandy with this photo.
"A tree in Jersey City, N.J., became tangled in power lines after being brought down by high winds from Sandy. More than 113,000 trees in the state were destroyed or damaged."

They fell by the thousands, like soldiers in some vast battle of giants, dropping to the earth in submission to a greater force.

The winds of Hurricane Sandy took out more trees in the neighborhoods, parks, and forests of New York and New Jersey than any previous storm on record, experts say.

Nearly 10,000 were lost in New York City alone, and ‘‘thousands upon thousands’’ went down on Long Island, a state parks spokesman said. New Jersey utilities reported more than 113,000 destroyed or damaged trees.

‘‘These are perfectly healthy trees, some more than 120 years old, that have survived hurricanes, ice storms, nor’easters, anything Mother Nature could throw their way,’’ said Todd Forrest, a vice president at the New York Botanical Garden. ‘‘Sandy was just too much.’’
As oaks, spruces, and sycamores buckled, many contributed to the destruction by crashing through houses or tearing through electric wires. They caused several deaths, including those of two boys playing in a suburban family room. They left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

And as homeowners and public officials deal with the cleanup, some tree-care experts say the shocking force of the storm weeks ago might mean they should reassess where and how to replant.

‘‘When trees go down that have lived a long life and been so beneficial, it’s terrible when they cause injury to people and property,’’ said Nina Bassuk, program leader at the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University. ‘‘We have to replant better and do it smarter.’’

For example, she said, shorter trees like hawthorns and crabapples should be planted below electric wires.
She also said a soil substitute can help trees extend their roots beneath pavement so maybe they can keep their balance in high winds.

Frank Juliano, executive director of the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, N.J., which lost uncounted trees, said those might not be replaced.

‘‘Would they just come down again?’’ he asked. ‘‘This is a global issue. We all have to deal with the ramifications of what’s happening with our world and environment.’’
Typical - the new growth is green and the older growth is turning brown and drying. 
But Bram Gunther, chief of forestry, horticulture, and natural resources for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, said, ‘‘Some trees may have been planted where they shouldn’t have been and you have other infrastructure conflicts. You don’t stop planting trees.’’

Gunther said that the city had counted 9,662 downed trees on its streets and in its parks after Sandy and the nor’easter that followed. That is more than the combined total from tornadoes in 2010 and last year’s Hurricane Irene and October snowstorm.
The same pattern is seen on this hydrangea
Among those trees may be some New Yorkers’ favorites. Doug Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, said among the hundreds of Central Park trees that became Sandy’s victims were a popular 120-year-old swamp white oak near the Mall and a willow next to the Lasker pool.

Forrest said one of his favorite spots at the Botanical Garden, a valley in the protected forest, was changed forever when an American beech was blown over ‘‘and took out five or six other trees like a game of dominoes.’’

The city has been in the midst of a campaign to plant 1 million trees. Gunther said the idea was to help with environmental issues such as greenhouse gases, air pollution, and the urban heat island effect.
Forrest said it seems ironic that trees, ‘‘the very things that are supposed to help buffer climate change, are now examples of the havoc it can wreak.’’

But he said, ‘‘That shouldn’t make us afraid of trees or less willing to plant trees.’’ He said each tree that came down was home to birds, insects, and ‘‘animals you wouldn’t associate with New York City, like our great horned owls.’’

He said at least 286 trees were uprooted or otherwise destroyed at the Bronx garden and 271 others were damaged enough that their survival is questionable.
‘‘This is the most wholesale destruction of trees at the garden, especially in the native forest, on record,’’ he said. ‘‘It was worse than the great hurricane of 1944.’’

On Long Island, ‘‘we were just destroyed,’’ said New York state parks spokesman Randy Simons, estimating ‘‘thousands upon thousands’’ of trees came down.
At the Planting Fields Arboretum, a state park in Oyster Bay on Long Island’s North Shore, director Vincent Simeone said, ‘‘We’re certainly not going to stop planting the way we plant, but we did learn that 70-mile-per-hour winds seems to be the breaking point.’’

He said he is already planning for spring.  ‘‘Sometimes a tree falls and a vista opens up and you have an opportunity to do something different,’’ he said.

Larry Hajna, spokesman for New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, said big stands of evergreens that were planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps toppled during Sandy.

‘‘For 70, 80 years, they had no problems, but this storm came along and that was more than enough,’’ he said.

The Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Conn., is considering taking drastic measures before the next big storm. It said last year it lost century-old chestnut trees and during Sandy a 100-foot-tall, 120-year-old white pine crashed down onto a cottage where a staffer was living.
‘‘It was one of a matching pair, and now the other one is there and with all the trees we’ve lost the wind buffer is eliminated,’’ executive director Peter Saverine said. ‘‘We’re going to have to look at taking it down.’’

‘‘It’s sad, but we have to look ahead,’’ he said. ‘‘In two years, we’ve had two 100-year storms and two freak snowstorms.’’

Clearly, if New Jersey utilities reported 113,000 trees incidents, that is only counting the trees that actually impinged on power lines, so many, many more must have fallen.

And note the contradiction between one claim that more trees were lost than in the 1944 "Great Atlantic Hurricane"...and another conclusion, that 70 mph winds seem to be "the breaking point".  The 1944 storm first smashed up the entire New Jersey shoreline and then slammed into Long Island as a Category Three (sustained winds of 111-129).  Wind gusts up to 150 mph were reported.  If 70 mph is the breaking point, there shouldn't be ANY trees older than the last real hurricane.  Check out the aerodynamic properties of trees if you missed it, here (and, if you scroll down this post, you will see not only pictures of trees that fell in the derecho, but a photo of the heavily wooded mountains of Spain, an area where winds commonly exceed 100 mph and somehow trees have managed to remain anchored to the ground.)
Aside from climate scientists refusing to even think about the poisoning of the atmosphere with ozone, some research appears to be so counterintuitive as to warrant the accusation of corruption.   One example from the US Forest Service now claims, without so much as a blush, that bark beetles are good for forest biodiversity:

Bark beetles driven by drought may be leaving millions of dead trees behind, but they may also leave behind more diverse, complex and healthy forests than Northern Colorado has seen in more than a century.

A U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station study published in October concludes that Colorado’s bark beetle infestation is creating more biologically diverse forests than exist today and the idea that beetles are killing forests just isn’t true.

Dense pine forests composed almost entirely of mature lodgepole pine trees have been hit the hardest by the beetles, which were able to spread through those homogeneous forests because drought stressed the mature trees and warmer temperatures allowed the beetles to survive the winter, the study says.
What’s left behind are entire hillsides of dead trees. Growing up among them is a diverse array of trees that couldn’t grow there before, including aspen, subalpine fir and young lodgepoles, the Forest Service concludes.

When the regenerated forest matures, lodgepoles won’t dominate the landscape anymore, but subalpine fir trees will as part of a forest composed of more kinds of trees and plants than those that existed before the beetles took over.

In the long run, the diverse forest may resist major new bark beetle epidemics and turn out to be a bonanza for lynx, spotted owls and other wildlife that depend on a forest full of many different kinds of trees.

Awww....I'm so excited for the lynx, spotted owls and other wildlife, aren't you??
The New York Times ran the following article which is astoundingly delusional.  I can't believe they printed it, it's so insane.  First of all the very premise in the headline that Global Warming (remember, Climate change is always followed by mass extinction) can possibly have a silver lining is ludicrous unless your idea of fun is a zombie apocalypse.  But it's about ozone so I had to include it, dripping with irony:
Photo from the New York Times - undated

Looking to Cities, in Search of Global Warming's Silver Lining

Heat, carbon dioxide and air pollution are already having significant effects on trees, plants and crops, and for most plant scientists, the debate over climate change ended long before the arrival of extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy.

Now, some of those scientists have moved beyond political questions to explore how rising levels of heat and emissions might provide at least some benefits for the planet.
“There is a lot of emphasis on the mitigation of global warming, and we need that,” said Lewis H. Ziska, a plant physiologist for the Department of Agriculture, who is one of a growing number of scientists studying how plants react to elevated levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. At the same time, he added, “we need to think about the tools we have at hand, and how we can use them to make climate change work for us.”
Among the tools are cities, which have conditions that can mimic what life may be like in the temperate zone of a heated planet.

“The city is our baseline for what might happen in future decades, and with all the negative effects global warming may have, there may be a bit of a silver lining,” said Stephanie Searle, a plant physiologist who led a Columbia University research project on tree growth, and now works as a biofuels researcher at the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation. “Higher nighttime temperatures, at least, may boost plant growth.” Robust growth takes more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Still, some emissions are not helpful to plants. There are also plenty of modern pollutants, like ozone and heavy metals, which are toxic to plants, to humans or to both. And so far, the long-term effects on plant life on a heated planet are unclear. “I try to avoid words like ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘detrimental’ or ‘beneficial,’ ” said Kevin L. Griffin, an ecophysiologist at Columbia University who participated in a study about the “heat island effect” on the red oak trees in New York.
The effects of higher, mostly urban emissions are what prompted Dr. Ziska to reappraise global warming as a potential benefit to humanity. In an essay last summer in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr. Ziska and a group of colleagues from across the world argued that an expected increase in world population to 9 billion people from 7 billion by 2050 necessitated a “green revolution” to enhance yields of basic grains. Carbon dioxide, the group suggested, could be the answer.

Since 1960, world atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen by 24 percent to 392 parts per million and could reach 1,000 parts per million by the end of this century.
While plants need carbon dioxide and generally perform better with higher concentrations of it, “not every species responds,” Dr. Ziska said. This may be especially true of domesticated species, which have little genetic diversity.

“Breeders are not actively selecting for CO2 response,” Dr. Ziska said. “They are more interested in drought resistance and pest control.”

In the wild, however, “nature selects for whatever works,” he said. “Our hypothesis is that nature in the wild will select much faster for CO2.”
Dr. Ziska said that his research focuses on rice, but that scientists should also be able to find the wild progenitors of “soybeans, wheat, oats and on down the line.” If they are successful, “we get a double value,” he said.“What we want is to absorb more CO2 and exploit the CO2 as a means to increase yield. That’s the goal.”

In New York, the Columbia researchers studied for eight years the growth of red oak seedlings at four locations, including an “urban” site near the northeastern edge of Central Park at 105th Street and a “remote” site in the Catskills 100 miles north of Manhattan near the Ashokan Reservoir.

Dr. Griffin, who supervised the project in conjunction with the Black Rock Forest Consortium of upstate New York, chose red oaks because they are a native New York species. He said he wanted his students to see if they could figure out whether city oaks grew differently from country oaks, and, if so, why.

Cities produce high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone, all of which influence plant performance.

The heat island effect arises because buildings, pavement and asphalt are better at absorbing and retaining solar energy than the fields and forests of the countryside. During the hot months, the city’s stored energy radiates back into the atmosphere after dark, keeping nighttime urban temperatures markedly higher than rural temperatures.
The Columbia team’s first red oak experiments ended in 2006, and average minimum temperatures in August were 71.6 degrees at the city site, but 63.5 degrees in the Catskills. Researchers also noticed that the city oaks had elevated levels of leaf nitrogen, a plant nutrient.

The team did two more rounds of experiments, then in 2008 made a final outdoor test using fertilized rural soil everywhere so all the seedlings got plenty of nitrogen. The urban oaks, harvested in August 2008, weighed eight times as much as their rural cousins, mostly because of increased foliage.
“On warm nights, the tree respires more,” Dr. Griffin said. “It invests its carbon sugars to build tissue.” By morning, the tree’s sugars are depleted, and it has to photosynthesize more during the day, he continued. The tree grows more leaves and gets bigger.

Still, it is clear that there are some emissions that are not helpful to plants, even in the north. The inspiration for the red oak experiments was a 2003 study in the journal Nature describing how cottonwoods grew twice as fast in New York City as they did in the country. But in that case, the difference in growth was not a matter of benefits from city emissions. Rather, cottonwoods in the country faced higher concentrations of atmospheric ozone, which stunted their growth.

Jillian Gregg, an ecologist who led the study, said that while cottonwoods were sensitive to ozone, many plants are susceptible to its effects. Ozone, or O3, a three-atom molecule of oxygen, can severely damage plant pores, causing them to grow more slowly.
The elevated ozone comes from the city, where nitric oxide from automobile exhaust and factories becomes a catalyst enabling free oxygen atoms to combine with atmospheric oxygen, O2, to create ozone molecules. But much of the urban ozone eventually reverts back to O2. The ozone that does not change back blows out to the country.

Scientists caution that while the studies of New York City in August may be a way to preview what the temperate zone might be like in the future, lush parks during northern summers could mean trouble in hotter latitudes. Also, if trees grow faster for a couple of years, that says nothing about how their root systems might handle drought or windstorms after 100 years.

Old growth city oaks, Dr. Griffin noted, are no bigger than old growth country oaks.

Following is from a condescending email exchange I had with Ziska in 2009.  Back then he insisted on the idea that only trees in New Jersey had a problem - maybe.

Monday, December 7, 2009 12:26 PM
Thank you Gail for your letter (email).  

My own work is on weeds per se, and not trees, so I confess to be unfamiliar with much of what you suggest is happening in New Jersey forests at the moment.  If there is another vector causing wide-spread tree death there, then I would suggest doing sampling in conjunction with Rutgers or other extension people to try and determine what might be going on.  

You may also wish to contact Dr. John Hom of the US Forest Service.  

Good luck,

Lew Ziska

USDA Crop Systems and Global Change Lab
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD   20705
FAX: 301-504-5823
From: Wit's End [] 
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 2009 11:07 AM
To: Booker, Fitz
Cc: Art Chappelka; Howie Neufeld; Ziska, Lewis
Subject: Re: Inquiry about possible air pollution effects on trees in NJ

Dear Dr. Booker, Dr. Neufeld, Dr. Chappelka, and Dr. Ziska,

I do appreciate your responses however, I confess I am still unsatisfied.  The explanations proffered simply seem inadequate to fully encompass the empirical evidence when it is considered in its entirety.

For example, cool weather and excessive rainfall do not explain why the leaves fell early this year, because the leaves were already showing unmistakable and dramatic signs of damaged stomata in the summer of 2008, when it wasn't particularly rainy or cool in fact, it was hot and dry.  Conifers began ridiculously high levels of cone production and a concurrent loss of needles in the fall of 2008.

Further, I cannot believe disease is the underlying cause because it seems highly unlikely that every single species of tree, in every growing condition, as well as every annual plant, would succumb to disease within the time frame of a year or two - because they just don't all react to the same pathogens the same way.  And it cannot be the result of short or long-term drought, because aquatic plants suffered the identical foliar damage even though they are in water all the time...


Gail Zawacki
These are little maple seedlings that sprouted as volunteers in the ivy.  Their leaves are no better or worse than the leaves on mature trees.  This most likely can only be explained as a tipping point in the composition of the atmosphere, which is why when I see yet another study blaming drought for widespread forest decline, I don't know whether to go berserk or laugh.
The ever-accommodating Justin Gillis at the New York Times reports on the research:

For the study, released online on Thursday by the journal Nature, Brendan Choat of the University of Western Sydney in Australia, Steven Jansen of Ulm University in Germany, and a large group of their colleagues compiled data from 226 forest species at 81 sites worldwide. They found that around 70 percent of the species operate with only a narrow margin of safety when it comes to their water supply. In other words, many of the world’s important forest species are vulnerable to hydraulic failure.

In effect, the trees have adopted an aggressive evolutionary strategy, creating robust water-moving machinery that allows them to grow quickly and out-compete other trees during times of adequate rainfall, but putting them at risk of dying when water is scarce.

That means that virtually all types of forests, even in regions that seem to get plenty of rain today, are vulnerable to increased drought and increased evaporation driven by higher temperatures. If the changes in rainfall and soil moisture in coming decades turn out to be as big as many scientists fear, the Choat-Jansen paper implies that the result could be massive die-backs, shifts in the composition of forests, and a transition from forest to grassland in many regions.
Get it?  Trees in wet places are dying of drought too!  These scientists are so locked in to drought from climate change from CO2, they ignore the obvious and well-known fact that ozone makes trees more vulnerable to drought and not only that, it apparently makes their water requirements so much more extreme that it reduces the flow of water in streams in forested watersheds, according to new research:
"From previous studies, we know a lot about ozone's influences on crops and leaves of young trees. However, no studies have investigated the impacts of ozone on water flow in large forested watersheds," says Ge Sun, research hydrologist with the Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center. "Our studies show that ozone has a possible connection in the reduction of streamflow in late summer when flow is generally lowest, particularly in areas with high ozone levels such as the Appalachian Mountains in the Southeast." 

Researchers developed models based on 18 to 26 years of data and observed streamflow in response to climate and atmospheric chemistry during the growing season. The research team evaluated individual and interactive effects of ozone on late season streamflow for six southeastern forested watersheds ranging in size from 38 acres to more than 3,700 square miles. Estimates of ozone's influence on streamflow ranged from 7 percent in the area of lowest ozone in West Virginia to 23 percent in the areas of highest exposure in Tennessee. 
The findings from this study along with a wide range of previous field studies challenge assumptions derived from small controlled studies that ozone exposure reduces water loss from trees and forests.The present study of mature forests under moderate ozone exposure shows that those ecosystems may react in a different way than can be predicted by short-range, intensive studies. 
"We're predicting that forests under high ozone conditions will use more water instead of less, as was previously assumed," says Samuel "Sandy" McLaughlin, scientist emeritus from the ORNL Environmental Sciences Division. "The concern is that ozone-induced increases in plant water loss could aggravate drought impacts on forests, and reduce the water available for people and stream life dependent on water flow during the dry seasons." 
You would think, wouldn't you, that climate scientists would be interested to know that ozone is going to remove a major carbon sink, vastly accelerating global warming?  Not only that, but with all the furor about the impending ice-free arctic, you might imagine that it would concern them that ozone is directly responsible for one-third to one-half of that melting??  Hoho, this is from an article about the study by Drew Shindell at NASA you almost never hear about:

"In a global assessment of the impact of ozone on climate warming, scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, evaluated how ozone in the lowest part of the atmosphere changed temperatures over the past 100 years. Using the best available estimates of global emissions of gases that produce ozone, the GISS computer model study reveals how much this single air pollutant, and greenhouse gas, has contributed to warming in specific regions of the world. According to this new research, ozone was responsible for one-third to half of the observed warming trend in the Arctic during winter and spring. Ozone is transported from the industrialized countries in the Northern Hemisphere to the Arctic quite efficiently during these seasons... In the lower portion of the atmosphere (the troposphere), ozone can damage human health, crops and ecosystems."

This tree lost a branch due to internal rot - but had a severe loss of bark beginning some time ago.
Notice that very tender annuals were still growing at its base and roses were blooming.  Cold weather cannot explain the damage to the leaves.
New York is a wonderful place to explore but it exhausts me.
As the sun was setting, I took the ferry to a bus for the ride home, back to the country - this is the view from the ferry terminal in Jersey City.
Over the fall I have watched the leaves shrivel instead of turn bright colors, to a much greater extent than ever before.  It was so pronounced and dramatic the past month that I wondered if perhaps Sandy had drenched them in salt water, even as far inland as Wit's End - and even though I knew perfectly well it began occurring before the storm arrived, I'd been posting pictures for weeks.
But now I am certain that it was not topical surface damage from salt even if such a thing were possible  because, incredibly, many plants still have their leaves hanging, brown and dead.  That isn't from surface scorching - that is an internal problem.  My Japanese Hydrangea vine clings to an unused kitchen door, covered with dead foliage.
The leaves above are on my Spring Beauty bush, and below, a clematis climbs a trellis with leaves in varying stages of decay.
It takes energy for a plant to shed leaves - it is an active process, induced by hormones in response to shorter days in autumn, initiated by abscission cells which physically cut the leaf from the branch.  
When the tree does not have enough strength to shed its leaves, and they simply shrivel in place, that is a very sick tree.
This is now the case with many perennial vines, shrubs and trees...but no where is it more obvious  and extreme - and apparently almost universal - than on the maples.
I won't go so far as to say every maple has kept its leaves into December, because whatever maples that may have dropped their foliage will be blending in with other bare branches - and I haven't done a systematic inventory.
But many, many maples look just like those pictured here, which are along the road I traveled on the way home last Thursday from the afore-mentioned lunch in Ringoes, through Whitehouse.  Other than that, I've barely peered outside my window.  It's terrifying, frankly.
It is highly likely that none of these trees will produce new leaves in the spring.
Time will tell, but if that happens it's going to be damned hard to ignore or explain with the usual excuses.
Below is a zoom of the above tree.  It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent of this anomaly, at least from what I've seen in New York and New Jersey - and how extremely bizarre and deeply disturbing a trend it is.  I have never, ever seen anything like it on this scale.
Following is an excerpt from the transcript of a 2009 radio report on NPR that explains the process of leaf abscission if you care to read up on it - and by the way here is how the story was illustrated, with a sight that was nowhere to be found this year:

The tree is deeply programmed by eons of evolution to insist that the leaves drop away. Why? Why not let the leaves stick around? Why drop?
Raven explains that leaves are basically the kitchen staff of a tree. During the spring, summer and early fall they make the food that helps the tree grow and thrive and reproduce. When the days get short and cold, food production slows down, giving the tree an option: It can keep the kitchen staff or it can let it go.
If trees kept their leaves permanently they wouldn't have to grow new ones, but leaves are not the brightest of bulbs (sorry!). Every so often, when the winter weather has a break and the days turn warm, Raven says leaves will start photosynthesizing. "They get some water up and they start operating and making food and then it freezes again."
When the cold snap's back on, the leaves will be caught with water in their veins, freeze and die.  So instead of a food staff that's resting, the tree is stuck with a food staff that's dead.  And when spring comes, the permanent help will be no help. The tree will die.
That's why every fall, deciduous trees in many parts of North America get rid of their leaves and grow new ones in the spring. It's safer that way.
Last night I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild and can't recommend it highly enough.  I'm not able to embed it obviously, but you can rent it for a pittance from itunes.  The little girl, Hushpuppy, observes, "The whole Universe depends on everything fitting together just right.  If one piece busts - even the smallest piece - the entire Universe will get busted".

I will mention one horrific story - Why Are Cows' Tails Dropping Off, and another, What Happens When You Blow Up A Mountain - both sickening exposés of fracking and coal mining, respectively, that you absolutely should come back to and read.  But first if you have time, watch the following spellbinding documentary about monarch butterflies and their phenomenal, 2000 mile migration, the extent of which scientists learned of only recently, and still they do not understand how they navigate.

There's a scene towards the end that made me cringe even more than the illegal logging of the forest where the butterflies overwinter in Mexico - the villagers celebrate the annual arrival of the butterflies with fireworks.  That's right!  They greet the monarchs with loud explosions of toxic heavy metals and gases because what the peasants are really happy about is not the beauty and magic and mystery of these fragile endangered creatures, but the tourist dollars that they will receive as a result of their presence.  It's an excruciating display of what appears to be an indelible human attribute among rich and poor, educated and ignorant alike - greed - and it doesn't get more cognitively dissonant than that.



  1. The end time is coming.

  2. That looks horrendous with all the dead leaves on the maples. It does look like they are forming buds though, so I think they will leaf out again in spring... though what condition the leaves will be in remains to be seen. I've seen trees here in the PNW retain their leaves dead leaves in fall/winter and then grow more in spring so I doubt those trees are completely dead yet, though well on their way.

    I can't find a healthy maple here in Vancouver anymore at all either. If I had to pick one species group faring the worst it would be maples. On occasion I can still spot what appears to be a healthy tree, or group of healthy trees of other species here, but these are by far the exception rather than the rule.

    When I first discovered the trees were all dying in the summer of 09 I honestly thought things would happen even faster than they are, much like how you at one point thought that all trees in New Jersey would be leafless within a year.

    Things are still progressing at a terribly rapid pace, but at least not as fast as I thought. A small mercy I guess. I wonder how many years we have left.

  3. "Throw everything we have at the problem." ~Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo, Norway

    Soon, Glen; it's the only economical thing to do.

    We Believe War Is Inevitable ~Kyle Bass, Hayman Capital Management

  4. I live on Maple Ave. and we do have a lot of maples. Also quite a variety of maples. Wish I knew the names of all the varieties but I don't. Most of them looked very much like the ones you've photoed but the range of symptoms the different varieties exhibit is large. The most distressing were the maples where each leaf grew a large black spot. Some trees the spot was nearly as big as the leaf. Those leaves were otherwise autumn yellow, the black/yellow contrast livid.

    The decline seems very rapid now. I worked many too many hours in November, mostly downtown where nature is slim anyway. Having a bit of a break now and the deterioration in all the trees over the span of a month is grossly evident. Went camping over the weekend at a favorite site. Nothing to do there but say goodbye.

    Something is going on with fungi. Tree stumps that should take decades to rot are coming apart in months, covered by every imaginable form of fungus. Of course many trees appear to simply rot as they stand. Some of the fungi would be merely opportunistic as the weakened trees make good hosts for the fungal parasites. Some of it I can't explain but it's easy to see.

  5. Good work, Gail.
    Once again, you make known the obvious disintegration of our botanical world, and manifest danger to all life, it signals.
    I, myself, have witnessed and documented, in many parts of the US west coast and southwest similar, what can only be described as herbicidal destruction of many species of trees, bushes, plants, shrubs, etc.
    As we know, trees and plants, have two main ways to intake moisture or nutrients, through nutrient tubes in the leaves, and through the roots.
    Any phytotoxic, or harmful agents, will enter the plant the same way.
    The most plentiful, and harmful agents likely to fall on the leaves are from air born pollution, which is known to contain chemicals and material harmful to living things.
    An American citizen can be informed by official authorities that trees are beneficial to ua because trees trap, and filter air pollution, but another official notice will tell us that air pollution kills trees. This info is easily found on the internet.
    As we can see here at WitsEnd, and other places, trees and plants, and the wildlife habitat
    they provide, are dead or dying, and they do show the wounds typical of the herbicidal effects of air pollution.
    We have little time to fix this mess. Since the professional, and degreed botanists, arborists, and gardener landscapers have been silent on the obvious plight, I conclude they are either, cowardly, incompetent, or derelict in their botanical callings.
    Other ways must be found to combat this ominous destruction.
    At the least we must raise our voices, and complain, to our friends and neighbors, and all in authority that as this botanical crisis deepens, our chances of survival lessens.
    Be sure that the burning, or partial combustion of fossil fuel gas, oil, and coal; and the attendant other pollutants are the cause, and as such the remedy is in the lessening or stoppage of the above.

  6. In addition to my previous comment, I offer my business card.

    David Lange
    Investigative Naturalist

  7. old trees dying:
    «The alarming decline in old trees in so many types of forest appears to be driven by a combination of forces, including land clearing, agricultural practices, man-made changes in fire regimes, logging and timber gathering, insect attack and rapid climatic changes, says Prof. Jerry Franklin.»

    not a word about ozone unless it is included in «other causes»

    and guess what:
    «More research is needed»
    you could have fooled me!

    as always

  8. Thanks Michele, I just saw that posted at


    so I left this comment (but I will post about it later...)

    First of all, 100-300 year old trees are barely middle-aged. They are not "old", they are only old compared to people. Second, YOUNG TREES are dying just as fast. AAuughhh. I wrote Laurance ages ago after his last study and he said, yeah, I should have probably included ozone as a stress. Where is it now? Not even on the list.

  9. talk about dead trees...

  10. The whack-a-mole explanations for trees falling continue. Absent drought and wind, wet soil appears to be the reason du jour this week.

    Oak in Shingle Springs, CA:

    Oak in Sacramento, CA:

    Fir in Canby, OR:

    If someone could explain to me how saturated soil snaps trunks in addition to the classic uprooting I'd be all ears.

    And in extreme weather ecopocalypse news, we have tons of downed trees, including a death from one on the Oregon coast:

    And of course there was Bopha where the number of downed coconut trees (along with others) is scary. I saw an article somewhere that I can't seem to locate again quoting an old timer saying it is the first time they have ever seen winds bring down more than a few coconut trees. In some places it was close to every tree that came down.

    (PS-Thanks for doing what you do Gail. I have been devouring your blog after discovering it a couple of months ago but had yet to comment. I was grasping around, looking for anyone who was noticing the concrete symptoms of the collapsing terrestrial natural world that confront me every day and finding only people who didn't give a shit or who are living in the upper atmosphere in a CO2-blinded fantasy world of models and hypotheticals, so it was comforting to land here and over at NBL where I also have not yet commented. In my neck of the woods here in Maine we are seeing all of the same rapidly accelerating tree distress and death that all of you are experiencing. I work in a city park and it is like walking into a nursing home every day. All species, all ages in decline. People oohed and ahhed over the few trees that exhibited decent foliage this year while seemingly not noticing the dull or non-existent color change on the others, the dead Austrian pines, the others with yellowed needles, the variety of species with solely dead leaves on the branches, all of the cankers and weepy wounds, all the downed branches-many of which are the consistency of sponges inside, the snapped crowns, and how even the few seemingly healthy trees were full of leaves with burnt edges and other visible damage.)

  11. Thanks for coming out of the woodwork (heh) Anon, cause that whack-a-mole couldn't be more perfectly apt!

    I will have to look for more info about Bopha. I've seen old videos of hurricanes where the houses are flying apart but the trees hang in there. Not so much anymore, I guess.

  12. These aerial shots of devastated coconut and banana plantations are what really got to me:

    Also, being from Maine, I gravitate towards videos of here-the hiking and mountain biking ones inadvertently give me a glimpse into forest health in other parts of the state-I thought of your blog when I was watching this one. The state of the trees and amount of lichen and fungi are perhaps to be expected, but listen to how many times this guy talks about the lack of birds and other wildlife. Chilling.

  13. Thanks, Amanda! One of the things I always wonder why people don't notice is that you can see so much further into the woods than you used to. Where I live, except for the villages, the houses out in the countryside were all hidden when I moved here over 25 years ago. Now, the hedgerows have died back so much you can see once-private homes. Sometimes when I am driving I get this awful feeling that I don't know where I am - it's like another planet, I don't recognize it because I can see hills a far horizon that used to be obscured by the treeline, which has been gradually getting lower and lower.

    I appreciate your contributions - and I'm working on putting them in the next post!


    I dont know if you've come across that site or not. Most of the info/pics seem to be around 10 years old but it seems like this has been happening for a long time, how I didn't notice until 2009 is beyond me. I must have had tunnel vision.

  15. It's the fifth link down on the Basic Premise page at the top of the blog.

    Obviously, pollution has been causing forest dieback for a long time - some people (Morrison) date it back to the first chestnut blight starting around 1910 or so.

    It was a big concern in the 1980's, with acid rain. Some attribute it to fallout from atomic testing. Then, there seemed to be a rejuvenation.

    However most of the impacts were more localized. It seems pretty clear that around 2008 it became global, and started accelerating with all species affected. So if you noticed it around 2009, that's about the same as me.

    I know darn well something changed, because as a gardener I would have certainly noticed the damage to foliage on my plants, and it just wasn't there before then, and now it is everywhere, on all annuals as well as trees.

    Why is arguable. Personally, I think the background level of ozone, which is constantly increasing, has passed a tipping point that is intolerable to plants.

  16. I’m in England and don’t recognise any mysterious mass decline/mortality in trees here...

    I'm in England too, and only have to look outside my window here to see several trees that are clearly in dire need of much more than just a hug.

    So much for anecdotes.

    As for the linked article about Helicobacter pylori, If you're interested in how messed up the 'science' of medicine is, I can thoroughly recommend the book Bad Pharma by Dr Ben Goldacre (he of Bad Science fame. I read it a short while ago and was dismayed to find that while we're sold the 'evidence-based medicine' line, what we actually get is the proverbial pig in a poke. The snake oil salesmen aren't just still out there -- they're out there in droves.


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