"Natural forest devastation"?

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Thu May 27 13:45:52 EST 2004

May 27, 2004  The Salt Lake Tribune

Western forests are in danger, scientists say 

by Don Thompson o the Associated Press

KINGS BEACH, Calif. -- Western forests may be on the brink of epochal
change, driven to permanent retreat in lower elevations by years of
drought and decades of fire suppression that has made them vulnerable
to a scourge of insects, scientists warned Wednesday.

The die-off in turn is resulting in uncontrollable wildfires of the
sort that swept Southern California last fall, and Arizona and
Colorado the previous summer.

  A hundred of the West's top scientists are gathered for a three-day
Lake Tahoe conference to share the latest studies on global warming
and its impact, and to plot what research is needed over the next five
    "There's stuff dying all across the montane forests of the Western
U.S.," said Craig Allen of the U.S. Geological Survey. "It's a big
deal -- socially, environmentally and economically."

Other researchers compared the current drought and rising temperatures
to a similar episode 13,000 years ago. Mountain forests died off or
were wiped out by fire, to be replaced by woodlands, grasslands and
desert scrub that had been prevalent at lower elevations or farther
    "Yet another spate of disturbance-driven plant migrations may be
looming in the West," the researchers reported.
    Scientists still don't know how much climate stress forests can
withstand before massive die-back kicks in. Without that knowledge,
researchers can't begin to realistically predict how much of the
West's forests will die, nor gauge the resulting effects on the
environment or society.

Comment by poster: These two sentences bother me. We've seen recent
examples of massive die-off in the West. The scientists just might be
able to piece together the puzzle if they factor in man's impacts on
our forests. Is this article "buffering" the public so that when our
forests do (temporarily) disappear, it will appear to be from
"natural" causes.

The effects of drought are compounded by the ravages of tree-eating
beetles that are killing entire forests from Alaska to Arizona. Not
only may a lack of water weaken trees, but warmer temperatures may
help the bugs survive and multiply into what Jesse Logan of the U.S.
Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station called widespread and
intense outbreaks.

While forests have survived insect onslaughts for millennia, the bugs
can adapt quickly -- as little as a year -- to changing conditions,
while it can take forests decades to adjust, Logan said.

Rapid climate change can thus trigger "catastrophic disruption" of
what usually is a natural battle between forests and insects. Rising
temperatures may let pests survive in areas where they once could not,
leaving trees in those areas suddenly vulnerable.
    But the overall cycle is part of nature. Beetles eventually die
after consuming the vulnerable trees and new, sometimes radically
different, growth replaces lost forests.

Comment from poster: Good forestry can mitigate many of the impacts of
drought through thinning, fuels reduction projects and controlled
burning. Nowhere in the article does it even mention active
management. Do these "scientists" really ever get out there in the
woods (this decade)?

Larry,    in the woods, everyday

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