Globally, forests are in decline. With the rise in temperature and disrupting weather patterns, it’s no wonder that forests are facing death. With forests containing innumerable assets to sustaining life on this planet, their mortality has leading implications not only to animal and plant life but to humans as well. Forest ecosystems cover approximately 30% of Earth's land surface. To put this into perspective, humans only occupy 3%. Forests are able to store 45% of the carbon found in terrestrial ecosystems and sequester as much as 25% of annual anthropogenic carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
With the rise in carbon dioxide, sequestering CO2 is necessary to combat the climate change dilemma. If this wasn’t enough, the biological ecosystems that survive within forested environments are all at risk. Tree dwelling birds, insects, and even small plants like shrubs and mosses all have a unique bond within the tree systems they thrive in. Aaron Ellison, a Forest Biologist at Harvard University, has a huge concern in the matter.
“Ecosystem impacts of forest mortality [that affect] plant and animal community structures is often defined by a small number of strong interactions,” he said. Also, in the most recent Nature journal, there are multiple articles focusing on tree mortality. However, they seem to fixate on two main causes: droughts and heat stress from temperature irregularities and infestation from pathogens and insects. Each is influenced by temperature and is a global issue that has not been addressed thoroughly enough.
Tree mortality impacts human business as well. Europe’s cash crop tree is the Norway Spruce, one of the largest and fastest growing coniferous tree in the world. However, it is dwindling in number and losing ground to Oaks, the less profitable brother of the Spruce. With the divergence between trees, we can ruminate the large financial costs associated with all things Norway Spruce related. Whether it’s building material, paper material, or even common commercial Christmas trees, we can understand why some markets should be concerned with this continued loss.
The financial worries do not even factor in the ecological benefits that forests provide.. Such ecological benefits are carbon sequestration, oxygen fixation, nitrogen fixation, biodiversity stabilization, upon many others. A recent article in The Independent explained that British scientists discovered that global forest systems estimate a benefit of 5 trillion a year. 5 trillion dollars is a large portion of money, one that outnumbers all of the living humans on this planet 714 times.
There are high costs involved in replanting a failed forest ecosystem. Currently China is facing drought and desertification, which is an advancement of desert. The plan, known as The Green Wall of China, involves enacting a large replanting of forest to push back the desert. Planting 9 million acres of forest is estimated to cost up to 8 billion dollars. Even so, the planted trees are vulnerable to failure due to factors such as topography, soil and ecosystem quality, and weather. The project is currently facing problems because certain forests aren’t growing, costing China even more money.
With the rise in tree mortalities due to climate change, one has to wonder how this will affect life on earth. Even if one is primarily concerned with humanity, the death of trees will show effects on our standard of living. As we wait for more news on global forests, we should show some tree morality and become educated.