Could the Coronavirus impact highlight climate change deceleration is possible?
Updated: May 6, 2020
It is disturbing reading this recent article by Bob Berwyn ‘We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream’: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests.
"New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today."
At GSI, we believe the environmental impact from the Coronavirus lockdown is illustrating that there may still be time and a renewed determination to take the action needed to decelerate the impact of climate change.
SOURCE: BY BOB BERWYN, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS Apr 25, 2020
"The study, published April 17 in the journal Science, reviewed the last 10 years of research on tree mortality, concluding that forests are in big trouble if global warming continues at the present pace. Most trees alive today won't be able to survive in the climate expected in 40 years, said Brodribb (a plant physiologist at the University of Tasmania who led a recent study that helps identify exactly when, where and how trees succumb to heat and dryness). The negative impacts of warming and drying are already outpacing the fertilization benefits of increased carbon dioxide."
Covid19 is helping reduce pollution levels
Pollution levels are being reported at an all-time low around the world. In the US, it is estimated up to a 25% reduction in pollution levels. Earth-observation satellites report significant reductions of emissions of nitrogen oxides, which come primarily from automobiles, power plants and factories. The clear skies, however, are coming at a painful cost to the quality of life and the economy.
The Berwyn article highlights how trees are being equally affected by climate change with some species potentially dying out within 40 years. However, the environmental impact from the Coronavirus lockdown is illustrating that there may still be time and a renewed determination to take the action needed to decelerate the impact of climate change.
Forest ecologist Diana Six from the University of Montana also advises us there is also critical information to be gleaned from the trees that aren't killed.
"The trees that survive are very different genetically and chemically, and they also grow very differently. In some cases it's the slower-growing trees that survive," she said. That's important information for forest restoration and resilience planning, she added.
"There are ways we can help our forests adapt, with space, sizing and composition. But eventually, you really have to get at adaptation. You have to get trees on the landscape that can survive in new conditions," she said.
That would include leaving the few trees that survived massive beetle outbreaks, rather than cutting them down during the salvage logging of beetle-killed trees. Often, the loggers are eager to harvest the remaining live trees because they are worth more, but Six said it's exactly those survivors that could help seed a new forest that's more resistant to insects and warming.
The survivors may hold some of the secrets to ensuring that at least some forests will survive human-caused global warming. And they show that there is already some natural adaptation under way. The die-offs are natural selection working on a large scale, and for some trees, that might be enough to trigger an evolutionarily adaptive response, she said. After all, conifers have a huge amount of genetic diversity and have survived drastic climate change on a geological time scale over millions of years.
"Some of the things we are seeing are dreadful and devastating, but there are studies showing trees can adapt quite rapidly on an evolutionary level. But if we keep cranking up the temperature, there is never going to be enough adaptation possible," she said.