Climate change has affected ecosystems worldwide, and one of the most precious treasures of our world–the community of ancient trees–is among the most affected detrimentally by these drastic climate changes!
Australian National University’s David Lindenmayer is a lead authority in the study of how our planet is in danger of forever losing the largest and oldest trees. He states: “Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers, and cetaceans have declined drastically in many parts of the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperilled.”
Mr Lindenmayer teamed up with colleagues from Washington University (USA) and James Cook University (Australia) to examine Swedish forestry records that dated as far back as the 1860s. Their research revealed alarming losses en masse of large trees at all latitudes worldwide, many of them ranging in age from 1000 to 3000 years old. Examples even included California redwoods, Tanzanian baobabs, and Australian mountain ash.
Rapid climate change creates drought and high temperatures. That, with agricultural land clearing and rampant logging leads to increased risk of forest fires. A disconcerting number of trees die in forest fires, and even perish at 10 times the normal rate during non-fire years because of climate change.
Bill Laurence of James Cook University laments this frightful trend: “We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world.”
The ecological role of large old trees is very critical, for they provide shelter and nesting grounds for up to 30 percent of all birds as well as animals in the ecosystem. Large old trees are crucial to recycling soil nutrients, influencing the flow of water within the landscape, circulating the oxygen in the air and recycling carbon dioxide, storing high amounts of carbon, and essentially creating rich nestling patches for life to thrive in. Moreover, they supply food sources to many in the animal kingdom with nectar, fruits, foliage, flowers, nuts, and seeds. They are both shelter and shade for many flora and fauna, and they help regulate the atmosphere as well. Because of all these reasons, the loss of these large old trees could mean the extinction of many species in the biosphere.
It is imperative therefore that forest management practices and strategies plus conservation policies and legislation be put in place to protect these large old trees so that their mortality rates are reduced, and so that they are allowed to be intentionally grown and cultivated.
The scientists warn: “Without such initiatives, these iconic organisms and the many species dependent on them could be greatly diminished or lost altogether.” To learn more about trees and other species threatened by climate change, visit the website of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as the website of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).