BASIC PREMISE + Research Links about Dying Trees

"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist, and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone."   - C.B. Fox, 1873

Another, even MORE Inconvenient Truth
"The U.S. soybean crop is suffering nearly $2 billion in damage a year due to rising surface ozone concentrations harming plants and reducing the crop’s yield potential," a NASA-led study has concluded.
Since the mid-20th century, scientific research has demonstrated conclusively that tropospheric ozone is toxic to vegetation, entering plants through stomates in foliage as they photosynthesize.  Naturally occurring stratospheric ozone is beneficial, it protects the earth's surface from too much solar radiation.  By contrast ground-level ozone is formed through complex chemical reactions when volatile organic compounds from burning fuel interact with UV radiation from the sun...and it's poisonous to all forms of life.
Government agencies such as NASA and the US Department of Agriculture measure annual losses of essential crops such as wheat, rice and soybeans in the billions of dollars from stunted growth and reduced production due to ozone.But does anybody stop to think what ozone must be doing to long-lived species - trees and shrubs and even lowly mosses - that suffer from cumulative exposure, season after season?
Answer:  it's killing them incrementally - and most tragically, imperceptibly to most people.
The preindustrial level of ground-level ozone was in essence, zero.  When it became obvious over fifty years ago that inversions and high spikes downwind of polluting sources were killing vegetation and sickening people, industries very cleverly learned to disburse the precursors.  They built tall stacks and restricted some auto emissions, thus reducing much visible smog, and reined in locally extreme peaks of ozone concentration.  Because the VOC's travel across continents and oceans, over decades the global background concentration has been inexorably rising - damaging trees everywhere on earth at a rapidly accelerating rate. Virtually no one is asking what role ethanol emissions might play in the most recent increase in dying trees.
That trees are dying is empirically verifiable by a cursory inventory.  Characteristic symptoms you can readily locate in any woods, suburban yard, park or mall include stippled, singed foliage; yellowing coniferous needles; thinning, transparent crowns; cracking, splitting, corroded, oozing and stained bark; early leaf senescence; loss of autumn radiance; holes; cankers; absence of terminal growth; breaking branches; and ultimately, death.  Why isn't this simply due to climate change and/or drought?  Because, the identical foliar damage is to be found on plants growing in pots with enriched soil and regular watering - and even aquatic plants that are always in water.
The causality is well-documented in published research and just as well understood as the relationship between tobacco smoke and lung cancer.  The reticence preventing scientists and foresters from raising the obviously commensurate degree of alarm is suicidal denial of an existential threat.  As if the damage to vegetation weren't enough, according to the WHO, ozone also kills more Americans every year than breast and prostate cancer combined - more than automobile accidents.
When you hear weather reports advising an ozone alert in a heat wave, followed by estimates of deaths attributed to the temperature, it is just another distraction.  Ozone kills people, especially those most vulnerable with asthma, emphysema, respiratory illnesses - even athletes exercising outdoors! - and is linked to diabetes and cancers.
When foresters in a revolving door with the lumber industry blame bark beetles for killing trees, that is as inaccurate and misleading as to claim pneumonia killed an AIDS victim.  Controlled experiments have proven that ozone weakens the immune system of trees, and debilitates their natural defenses against insects, disease, and fungus.  Their wood loses flexibility and makes their branches more likely to break from wind, ice and snow.  Their roots deteriorate from acid rain, which leaches essential nutrients from the soil, and makes them more likely to fall over.  Mudslides are becoming more commonplace as root systems of perennial plants shrivel, and wildfires are proliferating at an unprecedented rate.
When foresters say that trees are dying from old age, that is a convenient lie.  Left undisturbed, most varieties have evolved to live for centuries.  When foresters describe forests as in decline, that is a euphemism.  They are dying.
What are the implications of a world without trees?  Much the same as the parallel acidification of the ocean, which is destroying coral reefs that will lead to a collapse of the entire ecosystem.
Imagine a world without lumber, or paper...without shade, shelter, or habitat for birds and other wildlife...without walnuts, almonds, avocados, apples, pears and say nothing of losing the splendid primeval magnificence of beautiful maples, oaks, hemlocks, tupelo, ash and sycamore.  All of the species that depend upon trees - including humans - will ultimately go extinct without them.
As billions of trees expire, they are already turning from an essential carbon sink to carbon emitters, driving climate change to become even worse than the worst predictions.  And how we will replace the oxygen they produce, to breathe?  There is evidence that phytoplankton, the other major producer of oxygen and the base of the food chain in the ocean, has been reduced by 40% - and that they are absorbing ozone as well.Earth is a closed system, like a closed garage - with a car running inside.  The invisible but deadly exhaust fumes are building up and up.  If we don't turn off the engine everything will die, sooner or later.
Everyone is familiar with the corporate-funded climate change denial machine.  They have waged an even more effective campaign to hide the effects of ozone.Absolutely, there should be a very high price on carbon.  But to focus single-mindedly on climate change from CO2 is a failed strategy.  It's not working!  Emissions have not slowed at all!  It's time for those who know better to scare the wits out of people and tell them that what is most urgently at risk is not merely polar bears and exotic butterflies and cities threatened by sea level rise a hundred years off - but dinner on the table and oxygen to breathe, NOW!  It's time not just to tax carbon, but to ration dirty fuel on an emergency basis.
It's past time that the climate change scientists and activists align wholeheartedly with the environmental activists.  The exact same industrial processes and materialistic culture that are causing climate change mainly from CO2 emissions, are also polluting the air, water, and soil...extracting and depleting resources at an unsustainable level...and destroying habitats.
The corporations making obscene profits are united in their efforts to inhibit regulatory intervention, and to control media coverage.  We need a movement that is united to remove their influence from all three branches of government, and hold them accountable for climate chaos, environmental destruction and human health costs.
I have been looking into tree sensitivity to pollution ever since I realized that the trees are not only growing more slowly, they are actually dying at a rapidly accelerating rate. This is being reported from all over the world, not just around my farm in New Jersey. Every species of every age is in decline, as is the understory of the woods. It is well documented that ozone interferes with the ability of vegetation to photosynthesize by damaging the stomata of foliage and needles.
Because the recent decline is proceeding at a truly astonishing pace, it is possible that some wide-spread change in the composition of the atmosphere is responsible, perhaps from biofuel emissions, or a disruption of the nitrogen cycle, or hydroflurocarbons, or heavy metal contamination such as mercury, reacting to increased UV radiation. It is critically important to determine what is killing trees, because they are the foundation of the ecosystem and without them it will collapse.
There are photographs and links to scientific research scattered around this blog. Click here for a link to my profile in the World Wildlife Fund Climate Witness program.
Below is an ever expanding list of links to peer-reviewed publications and other reports, mostly about ozone and ethanol but also a few on acidifying oceans and climate change - those with stars are among the most pertinent. The first section are articles I found and linked to - below that is a list that has been contributed by "Highschooler", an anonymous student who rightly understands the urgent need to cease burning fossil fuels and transition to clean energy - and is courageously doing far more than most adults to preserve a habitable climate and ecosystem for the future.

****Professor Muir's awesome ozone page - with extras in the links, to an entire college course!
Nitrogen, Dr. Galloway, ScienceDaily 5/2008
Bleeding Trees, article from 2004, California
Oil Crash
***eco-systems many links to global air pollution and tree health
CO2 and plants Science Daily article 12/2009
Richard Alley lecture, CO2 and plants
Ozone and foliage response, Schroeder 2/2008 Science Daily
***Ozone and crop damage, Manning in Science Daily 6/2008
CO2, nitrogen and plants, AGU blog 12/2009
Ethanol emissions effects on health, Stanford 2006
Ethanol emissions effects on health, Stanford 12/2009
***Honest Forester and in particular this page and this Duke conference memo
Envirolink page online resource
Rachel's Environmental index
Charles Little book, The Dying of the Trees, review by Peter Montague and another article here and here
***dieoff article about Charles Little, and UV radiation damage to foliage
article in NYT 1987 about conference between US and German foresters re: decline
CO2 making warmer temps means ozone is worse Jacobson, Stanford Science Daily 1/2008
***Ozone effect on trees by Woodman
Pollution effect on trees from DEFRA, UK
Lichen identification and testing, Canada
Lichen, Irish site, with information on biometer of pollutants
Nitrogen cycle article from Science Daily 12/2009
Nitrogen - info from website of International Nitrogen Initiative
***Ocean Acidification video - You Can't Fish and Not Have Hope
Ozone worse in rural areas Cornell study 2003
Article about FACE (Free Air Experiment)
Ozone causes trees to lose moisture from leaves, McLaughlin, Oak Ridge
Ozone impacts on vegetation, research from MIT 2007
Ozone decreases tree growth Science Daily article 12/2008
Ozone - Membrane collection of links and more here
Letter to US legislators and regulators about biofuel from over 200 scientists and economists found here
Dying trees in Massachusetts, article from Boston Globe, 11/2009
***Ozone impacts on trees from VA Cooperative Extension
Ozone - background levels increasing, from the Royal Society
Ozone - Royal Society report
Ozone in the UK - pdf of DEFRA report
Dr. Woodwell's testimony from 1988 and more recent comments in Climate Progress
Chlorine by von Glasow
Chlorine by Thornton et al
Heavy metals linked to forest decline, article in Nature, MIT, Princeton, Dartmouth study
GIS data anlaysis of DC area ecosystem by
Pine beetle article in
***video from National Geographic about FACE experiment
Hydrochloroflourocarbons form oxalic acid, making acid rain worse
CO2 increases warmth, ozone, kills people, Stanford study 2010
Graph - interactive graph of climate change history of science and politics from NYT
***April 2010 issue of magazine Environmental Pollution, focus on effects of CO2 and O3 on trees
photographic comparative study of fall foliage 2007/2009 (mine)
winter chill requirements from Science Daily
Yosemite study from BBC tracking old-growth tree mortality
Premature Deaths from ozone in the UK
FACE article in MichiganTechU
Ozone Cuts Plant Growth, Steven Sitch, UK Met Office 2007
Science Daily article on UK study 2007
MSNBC article about UK study 2007
USDA webpage ozone affects plants
USDA photos ozone injury
European ICP Programme to monitor effects of pollution on forests
European ICP Programme to monitor effects of pollution on crops
Pollution Circles Globe from Science Daily 3/10
Soils emitting CO2 Nature Article
website about tree decline in California
Impacts of Climate Change Report from the Global Humanitarian Forum
CO2 causes faster growth Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Science Daily article: pdf below)
Newsletter from Forest Ecology Network 2010
Acidification of Soils leads to California Oak Decline
Crescendo Climategate Cacophony, a colossal compendium of the links between industry money and professional deniers, by John Mashey
Denier front groups funded by Koch from climateprogress
List of Climate Criminals from UMass Amherst
List of Climate Criminals from climateprogress
Smithsonian disgraces itself in climate change denier exhibit funded by Koch from CProgress
Ozone from Asia lands in US (nitrous oxide down by 1/3 but ozone up by 29% since 1989)
nitrous oxide release from melting methane
trees lose liquid (!)
Dying trees in Oregon
CO2 levels rise despite economic downturn - forest sinks now emitting?
CO2 killing trees
warming threatens fruit and nut production/winter chill necessary - Sci. Daily article 
***trees dying in the UK, Guardian article
trees can defend themselves against insects!
Smithsonian research - CO2 increasing tree growth, original paper in Proceedings...
Investigation on Wit's End of the Smithsonian conclusion
nitrogen additive in BP gasoline?
***trees dying in the UK, Independent article
CO2 and evapotranspiration Science Daily about Caldeira/Cao research
***EPA report from 1999 on effects of ozone, per California Sky Watch
Ozone reduces crop yields Science Daily 2007, Sitch and Cox
Rising CO2 reduces crop yields Science Daily July 2006 FACE experiment
Ozone in Denver; increases bark beetle infestation
Ozone in North Carolina; reduces tree growth, causes crop damage
Tree Care Industry Asso. advisory; ozone wiped out Ponderosa Pine in CA
NJ ozone report
CA data base ozone damage to forests from 1989
******EPA Ozone Review Chapter 7 for vegetation
******EPA 2009 provisional assessment
Favorite Excerpts from the above EPA reports on Wit'sEnd blog
EPA links to ozone assessments
Kudzu vine produces ozone, UVA research 5/10
cork trees dying for "mysterious" reasons
Air Quality and Climate Change - UK publication 2007
hydroflurocarbons increasing
bee colony collapse
British Aerosol Manufacturers leaflet on ozone
***Entering the O(no!)zone by Janna Beckerman, UMN (scroll down for her section)
***Nitrogen: article in Scientific American
draft report from the Integrated Nitrogen Committee to the EPA
Article about acid rain, effects on birds, by Wm. Schlessinger
British Forestry link about infected trees
Photos of damaged trees in Britain
Salt Marsh Dieback National Park Service
Salt Marsh Dieback story - crabs eating grass
***Soybean production reduced 15% by ozone - FACE experiements
Acid Rain, Wet and Dry Depositioin - Environment of Earth
Acid Rain, Lichens and Pollution, US Forest Service
EPA: "Higher levels of ground level ozone limit the growth of crops"
EPA 2005 Air Quality Criteria for Ozone
Ozone damages leaves, Fuhrer et al
Photosynthesis - 3 types
Journal of Tree Physiology - search for articles about ozone
CDIAC database
Reuters article, crop yields decrease, blamed on warming & drought
Zhao August 2010 - crop yields decrease, blamed on warming & drought
Rolling Stone article on the EPA
The Carbon Bomb - Greenpeace essay on impacts to forests
***Ambient Ozone and Plant Health - Plant Disease article 2001
***Ozone Effects on Agriculture - Journal of Integrative Plant Biology
Wit's End post with links about peroxyacetyl nitrate
paper: Interactive effects of ozone and climate on tree growth, McLaughlin et al
Ozone section of text: "Plant Ecology" by Schulze et al starting at p. 225
Ozone reduces the carbon absorbed by forest soil, FACE experiment
Study ongoing about forest regeneration under ozone at FACE
google image search for leaf ozone injury
"Turning Point" report by National Park Conservation Association
"Dark Horizons" report by National Park Conservation Association
NOAA ozone toxic in the troposphere
WHO - ozone causes lung damage in athletes; kills nearly 2x as many as auto accidents, and more than breast & prostate cancer COMBINED
Ozone and the oceans and here
phytoplankton disappearing
National Institute of Health - articles about ozone
Ozone travels tracked by satellite
Tropospheric Emission Monitoring Internet Service
Nitryl Chloride intensifies ozone
***Ethanol emissions WORSE than gasoline?!
ash trees dying
Kiwi trees dying
Maple Trees dying - Nashua Telegraph story
Maples Changing Colors - by Martha Carlson
World Meteorological Org research page on reactive gases
Ozone page at Everything2
Peroxyacetyl Nitrate at Everything2
WMO Bulletin greenhouse gases at record high
Ethanol emissions enhance PAN - Brazilian study, 1988
Indirect radiative forcing of climate change MORE by ozone impacts on plants!  UK Met Office
link to ozone-related studies available only as PDF
CO2 increases growth but decreases protein and minerals in grain
****EPA Secondary Ozone NAAQS
***Ethanol increases air pollution, letter from Environmental Working Group to EPA with links!
Dr. Almendariz - letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding ozone
Ozone worse than expected, Cal Tech
***Ozone papers published by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
Global Nitrogen Assessment Needed Urgently

Ozone effects on human and animal health:

NIH Toxic effect of inhaled ozone 1989
Overview of toxicity in humans and animals, 1984
Ozone impairs lung function
EPA:  no safe level
Ozone impairs immunity
Females may be more susceptible to death following infection after ozone exposure
Indoor ozone pollution affects health
Indoor air purifiers produce ozone
Ozone reacts with cigarette smoke
EPA ozone standard insufficient to protect human health
Ozone shuts down early immune response
Diabetes and Air Pollution
10 most polluted cities - WSJ

Contributions by Highschooler:

Nasa - UV radiation
UN report - UV-B radiation damage to plants
Greenpeace ozone report
Stratospheric ozone hole
Nitrogen Oxide pollution
Stratospheric Ozone depletion
Effects of UV-B radiation on plants, Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 2002
NOAA Air Quality Forecast maps
Heath Canada summary - ozone/air quality objectives
Encyclopedia of Earth - Impact of Ozone on Health and Vegetation
Ozone Injury in European Forest Species
Invasive Kudzu is major factor in ozone - Science Daily
Environmental Health News - kudzu from ozone
Online Athens (Georgia) - ozone and kudzu
U. Virginia report on kudzu and ozone
U. Virginia study: native species less resistant to ozone than invasives
wiki: nitrogen dioxide
wiki map of nitrogen dioxide
SIDS - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome linked to levels of nitrogen dioxide
map of global air pollution from Greenfacts about nitrogen dioxide effects
Epidemiology - effects of aldehyde compounds on health in Patterson NJ
Thomas paper from the 1950's - Effects of Air Pollution on Plants!
Holden Arboretum - ozone killing trees
Environmental Pollution journal - Assessing Ozone on European forests
Effects of Ozone on White Pine - chamber experiment
Tree Decline in North America (2003)
Ozone effect on Oat and Duckweed
Ozone and other pollutants considered together...effects as mixtures
Quantifying effects of ozone on agricultural crops
Effects of Air Pollution on Agriculture and Forestry 1982
Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study
Detection of effects of ozone on birch by chemometrical evaluation of concentrations of lipid components in leaves
CBS radio network story on FACE experiments
Treehugger article about Royal Society report
Nature News article - Royal Society reports rising ozone will impact food
WHO report: Health Risks of Ozone from long-range transboundary air pollution
NASA report: The Ozone We Breathe (includes plants!)
NASA report: Ozone is a global traveler
NASA Ozone monitoring satellite website
Northern Plants and Ozone - paper published 2009
paper: Carbon Metabolism of forest trees affected by ozone, 2001
paper: Impacts of ozone on photosynthetic performance
paper: New critical levels of ozone impacts on young trees; cumulative
paper: Effects of ozone on wheat carbon-fixing
paper: Ozone effects on potato and wheat yield
paper: Ozone damages watermelon, Indiana, 1982
Ozone Generator Hazards
Student study of ozone effects on radishes
Eastern Forest Threat Assessment - Ozone Bioindicators
****NASA satellites reveal $2B damage to soybean crop from ozone in 2009
paper: hydroperoxides in plants exposed to ozone
Alabama Cooperative Extension - Air Pollution damage to plants
Center for Ecology & Hydrology - widespread ozone damage in Europe, 2007
patent application for treatment of ozone damage in plants
paper: Ozone Damage to Plants by Treshow, 1970
Threats From Above: Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems
International Conference: Assessment of Ozone Visible Injury
It's too late for coral reefs
Last House on island collapses from rising seas
Effects of ground level ozone on crops in Thailand
paper:  Impacts of ozone on crop production in a changing climate
**USDA:  impacts of ozone damage to soybean crops
Ozone an ignored problem in southern Europe
Ozone an ignored threat to human health, Times OnLine
Quantifying the threat to human and vegetative health from ozone, CEH
Ozone injury in West Coast Forests 2000 - 2005
**Ozone killing sugar maples
Contribution of Ozone to Forest Decline, German, 2006
Forest Decline in Turkey and Ozone
Ozone Damage to Vegetation Enhances Global Warming
***Vanished in the Haze
***Tropospheric Ozone:  A Growing Threat Japan 2006
Review of Impacts of Ozone on Forests:  Lindroth
Young Naturalist Award: Ozone Impacts on White Pine
Role of Ozone in Global Change
Crop Damage from Ozone
Ozone contributes to global food crisis
Review of surface ozone levels and trends
Ozone and lung disease
Warming could bring poisonous ozone down to earth
Identity Ozone Injury - USFS
Ground Level Ozone - Stonybrook
Mosses - Effects of Ozone
Ozone effects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 2006
Professor Neufeld's home page
Ozone damage to native wildflowers
Hands on the Land Ozone Biomonitoring
NYTimes article - Interior West Forests on Verge of being Carbon Emitters
Mongabay:  Drought Threatens Amazon as Carbon Sink
Dire Global Consequences as Amazon Dries - Mongabay
Amazon Forest Near Tipping Point - IPCC validated
Rivers Disappearing in Drought-Stricken Amazon
Drought in Amazon allows art to surface after 7,000 years
Long-range transport of ozone precursors, NOAA
Herbicides impact crops, Grist
Carbonyl sulfide and CO2 during leaf gas exchange, NOAA
Acid Rain and calcium depletion, USFS
Stratospheric correlation between nitric acid and ozone, NOAA
Seasonal Ozone in Colorado, NOAA
Pecan Trees dying from air pollution
Trichloroacetic Acid in Norway Spruce/Soil System
Trichloroacetic Acid in the foliage of forest trees
Trichloroacetic Acid in the environment
Trichloroacetic Acid - fluxes through a conifer forest canopy
Trichloroacetic Acid - contributing to desertification
Trichloroacetic Acid - phytotoxic air pollutant
Trichloroacetic Acid -fluxes between atmosphere, biota & soils
Trichloroacetic Acid in the environment, summary of studies, European forests
Detection  of C2-hydrocarbons by needle analysis
Trichloroacetic Acid - SIDS
Nitrogen deposition in Northeast forests, 2003
Nitrogen saturation in temperate forests, John Aber
Nitrogen saturation, Duke U, 1999
Nitrogen saturation, Forest Encyclopedia
Ozone, Forest Encyclopedia
Nitrogen experiment at Harvard Forest
High N deposition and exposure to ozone threaten western forests, USFS
Nitrogen deposition in the Fernow Experimental Forest
***Nitrogen deposition - hypothesis revisited - overview
Nitrogen deposition - Woods Hole
Nitrogen saturation in a high elevation New England spruce-fir
Calcium depletion effect in forests
Cation depletion from pollution
Cation depletion, Evidence from the field, Forest Encyclopedia
Pollutant drivers, Forest Encyclopedia
Cation depletion from harvesting
CA depletion a biologically unique threat analogous to immune suppression
***CA depletion as analogous to immune suppression, Schaberg 2001
Physiology of role of cations in plant ability to defend against pests and pathogens
Red Spruce Winter Injury, Mechanism
CA depletion predisposes trees to decline
CA depletion from acidic deposition acts on landscape scale to increase winter injury
Sugar Maple decline
Anthracnose fungus susceptibility increased in flowering dogwood by CA depletion
Hemlock susceptibility to wooly adelgid increases in the presence of CA depletion
Limitations of current indicators of CA depletion
Soils  - difficulties in testing for CA depletion
Foliar assessments of CA depletion in vegetation
Historical data and links to ongoing studies on CA depletion
Critical Limit, Critical Load of pollutants
Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution study program from Canada and Europe (but not the US!)
Assessment of critical loads for conference on New England governors and East Canadian Premiers
Models of CA depletion match empirical observations of chronic forest dieback
Policy Implications
Management Implications
Worldwide Relevance

Blog Archive

My Blog List

Search This Blog