‘Ghost Forests’ May Become More Common as Sea Levels Rise

By Elizabeth Gamillo
Along the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast, an eerie sight dots the changing landscape. Rising sea levels turn thriving green vistas of hardwood and evergreen trees into “ghost forests,” dried-up terrains filled with gnarled, dead, and dying timber. Under climate change, these could become an even more common sight, according to a new report published by Rutgers University.

Ghost forests are landscapes that form when saltwater begins to flood woodland areas that contain freshwater-dependent trees. The water high in salinity slowly poisons trees, and as they die, all that is left behind are ghostly gray trunks that resemble toothpicks. The trunks can last decades in this dried-up barren state, reports Dharna Noor for Gizmodo.

Researchers at Rutgers University, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, found that coastal woodland forests ranging from Virginia through Massachusetts are dying as a result of heavy rain, saltwater surges, and flooding from rising sea levels, reports Matthew Hart for Nerdist.

The rising salt water not only kills trees but leaves soil unhealthy and forests uninhabitable for new growth, Nerdist reports. This report is alarming as coastal forests are habitats for many rare plants and wildlife, such as the threatened swamp pink plant, Gizmodo reports.

Not only are the ghost forests expanding because of climate change, they could also be making hostile conditions worse through a feedback loop. Forests along the East Coast are riddled with evergreen trees that absorb carbon dioxide almost year-round, making them crucial carbon sinks that can lower carbon dioxide concentrations from the atmosphere, reports Gizmodo. With fewer evergreen trees, less carbon is removed from the air.

“One ecological benefit of healthy coastal forests is the sequestration and storage of carbon both aboveground and in soils. As coastal forests transition to marsh, we lose aboveground carbon. Some of that is released into the atmosphere, and some shifts to other carbon pools,” Lindsey Smart, a ghost forest expert at the North Carolina State University who was not part of the study, tells Gizmodo.ong the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast, an eerie sight dots the changing landscape. Rising sea levels turn thriving green vistas of hardwood and evergreen trees into “ghost forests,” dried-up terrains filled with gnarled, dead, and dying timber. Under climate change, these could become an even more common sight, according to a new report published by Rutgers University.

Ghost forests are landscapes that form when saltwater begins to flood woodland areas that contain freshwater-dependent trees. The water high in salinity slowly poisons trees, and as they die, all that is left behind are ghostly gray trunks that resemble toothpicks. The trunks can last decades in this dried-up barren state, reports Dharna Noor for Gizmodo.

To mitigate ghost forests, coastal forests need protection from development, and proper planning and collaboration with landowners must be established, according to the Rutgers report. Solutions the researchers suggest include creating living shorelines by planting trees to slow erosion, depositing sediments to help marshes move to higher elevation as sea levels rise, and planting forest vegetation that can tolerate changes in soil.

“This study adds to the growing evidence that this is not a localized phenomenon, given other reports up and down the east coast,” Smart tells Gizmodo. “While the rate and extent varies based on local site characteristics, it’s clear that sea-level rise and the synergistic pressures between sea-level rise and land use modification…are changing our coasts, impacting our coastal forests.”

Source: What is a Ghost Forest? – Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine, 2021-03-19

Amid climate crisis, a proposal to save Washington state forests for carbon storage, not logging

by Lynda V. Mapes
CAPITOL STATE FOREST, Thurston County — Older than Washington state, the biggest Douglas firs on this patch of state forestland have stood through more than a century of logging.

Part of a 180-acre timber sale auctioned off for $4.2 million last November by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), their next stop was a plywood mill. Then, something unusual happened.

Hilary Franz, state commissioner of public lands, pulled back nearly 40 acres with most of the biggest, oldest trees from the sale.

Now, this timber sale named Smuggler (sales are often whimsically named by state foresters) also is swinging open a door to a broader conversation in Washington, home to the second largest lumber producer in the nation, to rethink the value of trees on state lands not as logs, but as trees to help address the twin crises of species extinction and climate warming.

Franz is kicking off an examination over the next three to four months of all older forests on DNR lands west of the Cascades not already in conservation status — about 10,000 acres.

But that is nothing compared to positions staked out by two of her predecessors: Jennifer Belcher, commissioner from 1993-2001, and Peter Goldmark, commissioner from 2009-2017. They have launched a proposal to gradually stop all commercial harvest of state forests west of the Cascades, for what they see as a higher purpose: combating the climate crisis.

Nothing we currently know of works better than allowing trees to suck carbon from the atmosphere when they are living, and store it in their branches, roots and the forest soil for centuries after their death. Trees — especially mature forests — are the cheapest, fastest, most reliable form of carbon storage.

So-called proforestation is the leading edge of new science that finds intentionally leaving forests to grow bigger helps blunt the worst effects of the climate catastrophe. Of course, fossil fuel emissions must also be drastically reduced.

Franz said she opposes her predecessors’ proposal. She is concerned about preserving local timber supplies, mills, jobs and payments made from timber revenue to state trust beneficiaries for school construction and local government needs. State trust lands contributed more than $155 million in net revenue to those beneficiaries in 2018, most of it from timber harvests.

But she does want to take a new look at older trees. Not the old growth the state already protects, sprouted before 1850, among other characteristics. The older trees that are the giants of tomorrow.

Franz sees an opportunity to take a broader, more holistic view and create meaningful change that extends beyond the Capitol State Forest, she said in an interview.

Source: Amid climate crisis, a proposal to save Washington state forests for carbon storage, not logging – The Seattle Times, 2021-03-21

Subscriptions to satellite alerts linked to decreased deforestation in Africa

By Eric Hamilton
Deforestation dropped by 18 percent in two years in African countries where organizations subscribed to receive warnings from a new service using satellites to detect decreases in forest cover in the tropics.

The carbon emissions avoided by reducing deforestation were worth between $149 million and $696 million, based on the ability of lower emissions to reduce the detrimental economic consequences of climate change.

Those findings come from new research into the effect of GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system, available on the free and interactive interface Global Forest Watch. Launched in 2016, GLAD provides frequent, high-resolution alerts when it detects a drop in forest cover. Governments and others interested in halting deforestation can subscribe to the alerts on Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss.

Source: Subscriptions to satellite alerts linked to decreased deforestation in Africa – University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021-01-04

For love of nature: 500-Year Forests for the future

By Shannon Brennan
Twenty-three years ago, a handful of people had a vision for preserving old-growth forests in Virginia. Not that we had many.

When Europeans first came here, the land was thick with old giants, but by the time of the Civil War, nearly the entire state had been clear-cut.

Less than one-half of 1% is truly old growth. Slowly, some larger areas are being allowed to regenerate.

Old-growth forests provide critical habitat for many species, including salamanders, soil invertebrates, small mammals, songbirds and black bears. Standing dead wood is important for many wildlife species.

Gaps in the canopy are a common occurrence in old growth, allowing greater sunlight to reach the forest floor and creating three to five layers of understory, rather than one to two layers in younger forests.

Ted Harris, a former member of the House of Delegates from Lynchburg, was founding president of the 500-Year Forest Foundation and one of six directors of the Virginia Urban Forestry Council who established the foundation.

Since its formation, the foundation has obtained no-cut easements on 10 forests. It requires a minimum of 100 acres of forest and defines old growth as having a significant number of trees at least 70 years old.

The 10th old-growth forest was established earlier this year and is the first to be bequeathed to the foundation. The 140-acre forest in Nelson County is located at the forks of the north and south Tye River and backs up to the Priest Wilderness Area, crossed by the Appalachian Trail.

Source: For love of nature: 500-Year Forests for the future – newsadvance.com, 20-12-09

B.C. to protect 353,000 hectares of forest with old-growth trees from logging until new plan is developed

By Chad Pawson
In what it’s calling a new approach to forest management in B.C., the province says it will protect 353,000 hectares of forest in nine old-growth areas throughout the province from logging.

The promise comes as the Ministry of Forests released a new report entitled A New Future for Old Forests, meant to guide an overhaul of forestry rules.

It’s based on the work of two foresters who travelled the province for months hearing about how B.C.’s massive, old-growth trees should be protected. The term old-growth in B.C. means trees that are generally 250 years or older on the coast and 140 years or older in the Interior.

“For many years, there has been a patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province, and this has caused a loss of biodiversity. We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers,” said Doug Donaldson, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development in a news release.

Donaldson said 23 per cent of the forested land base in B.C., some 13.2 million hectares, is made up of old-growth forest.

A majority of the hectares temporarily protected from logging announced on Friday are in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, an area known for its large trees, biodiversity and confrontations over development.

Source: B.C. to protect 353,000 hectares of forest with old-growth trees from logging until new plan is developed – CBC News, 2020-09-11

Report: 58% of Europe’s native trees face extinction threat

An international conservation group is warning that more than half of the European tree species that exist nowhere else in the world are threatened with extinction.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in a new report Friday that 58% of the continent’s 454 native trees are threatened and 15% are “critically endangered” – one step away from extinction.

More than 150 experts contributed to the report, which the conservancy called the first comprehensive assessment of the extinction risk of trees in Europe.

The findings in the “European Red List of Trees” come amid heightened concern about environmental issues and extinction risks in Europe and beyond. A U.N. report on biodiversity released in May warned that extinction looms for over 1 million species of plants and animals.

IUCN, a 71-year-old organization known for its “Red List” classification of threatened species, said that “invasive and problematic” species are the top threat to European trees, with urban development and “unsustainable logging” as other factors.

The group’s Europe director, Luc Bas, said “human-led activities” were resulting in population declines of important tree species.

Among the recommendations , the report’s authors called for the creation of protected areas, improved monitoring and increased research on the impacts of climate change on forests and individual tree species.

Source: Report: 58% of Europe’s native trees face extinction threat – Phys.org, 2019-09-27

For those who shed blood to shield the green: National Forest Martyrs Day

By Sudeshna Banerjee
National Forest Martyrs Day was marked by a programme at Banabitan on Wednesday in which a part of the Children’s Park in front of Banabitan was rechristened Shaheed Smriti Bon, in memory of the fallen foresters.

The day is being observed ever since the ministry of environment and forests made the declaration in 2013 to recognise the valour and sacrifice made the forest personnel for protection of forests and wildlife.

The day commemorates the Khejarli massacre in 1730 when Maharaja Abhay Singh’s army started felling khejri trees held sacred by the Bishnoi community in Khejarli village in Rajasthan. A woman named Amrita Devi had stepped up in resistance, offering her head instead. She was decapitated as were her three daughters, who took her place, followed by 359 Bishnoi men till the news reached the king.

“People think all the sacrifices made in the line of duty are by the armed forces. No one thinks of us. I have seen at close range how three lives were lost while I was posted in the Midnapore range. Two of my men died of tiger attacks while another was trampled by an elephant,” said Rabindranath Saha, deputy conservator of forests.

Forest minister Bratya Basu invoked the spirit of Suresh Biswas, the 19th century Bengali adventurer, in toasting the courage of the foresters. “Our pride is not just in our past but in our present too. It is unfortunate that even ministers are quoting epics as sources of scientific truth,” he said.

Later, he regretted the recent attacks on foresters probing the death of a tiger in the Sunderbans. “We need peaceful cohabitation of wildlife and villagers in buffer zones,” he said.

Source: For those who shed blood to shield the green: National Forest Martyrs Day – The Telegraph, 2019-09-14

UNESCO adds Iranian forest to World Heritage List

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee voted Friday to add Iran’s Hyrcanian forests to its World Heritage List, praising the area for its “remarkable” biodiversity. The ancient Hyrcanian forests in northern Iran run 530 miles (850 kilometres) along the coast of the Caspian Sea, according to the global body. “Their floristic biodiversity is remarkable,” UNESCO said, with some 44 per cent of Iran’s known vascular plants found in the Hyrcanian area.

The forests, which date back up to 50 million years, are also home to the Persian leopard and nearly 60 other mammal species, as well as 160 bird species.

They were just one of two natural sites added to the UNESCO list on Friday, the other in China, when the World Heritage Committee met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku.

Iran’s only other natural site listed by UNESCO is the Lut Desert in the country’s southwest, which gained the status three years ago.

Source: UNESCO adds Iranian forest to World Heritage List – Business Standard, 2019-07-06

Argentina’s Impenetrable forest opens up

By Mark Johnson
This huge yet little-known South American wilderness is under threat. But plans to turn it into a sustainable tourism hub will help protect its people and wildlife.

In the far north of Argentina lies a vast and extremely hot lowland known as the Gran Chaco. Were you to find yourself in it, as I did, you might kayak across a lily-filled lagoon and stumble into a solitary mansion peeking out above an endless sea of green.

It was here, at Estancia La Fidelidad, that eccentric rancher Manuel Roseo lived until 2011, when he was brutally murdered by criminals hoping to take his large (and little-touched) property. Thanks to the quick actions of Argentinian conservationists, provincial officials and the federal government, that tragedy had a silver lining with the birth of a new national park that could just shine a light on a forgotten South American wilderness.

El Impenetrable national park opened to the public in August 2017, following a telenovela’s worth of drama that included not only Roseo’s murder but the hunt for his missing heirs and a long legal battle to expropriate his land. At 128,000 hectares, it’s now the largest national park in northern Argentina and a beacon of hope for the entire Gran Chaco, which fans out into Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil (where it is connected to the Pantanal region) and is South America’s second-largest forest ecosystem after the Amazon.

While the Amazon has become a rallying cry for environmentalists, the bulbous silk floss trees, towering cacti and bushy bramble of the Chaco are disappearing in relative silence. Never as well-known – or as protected – as the Amazon, the Chaco is fast becoming the domain of cattle ranches and soya farms.

Source: Argentina’s Impenetrable forest opens up – The Guardian, 2018-09-15