Pine, Juniper forests predicted to disappear

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Dead conifers in the Sandias, within Cibola National Forest, are easily spotted.

Image by Laura Paskus

Dead conifers in the Sandias, within Cibola National Forest, are easily spotted.

Recently, scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Columbia University, the University of New Mexico and a pile of federal agencies and universities published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal, “Nature Climate Change” that predicts the disappearance of the Southwest’s pine-juniper forests.

It follows a 2010 paper about how warming is affecting southwestern forests and another in 2012 that found 20 percent of the region’s forests had been affected by beetle infestations and high-severity wildfires since the late 1990s.

In the new study, scientists simulated drought conditions to see how evergreen trees will respond to warming in the coming decades. Over five years, they studied how trees perform certain functions, like photosynthesis and the absorption of water during drought.

They found that earlier mortality estimates were too low—and projected that by 2100, pine-juniper forests in the southwestern U.S. will be gone and more than half the evergreen trees in the northern hemisphere will have died.

That large-scale die-off may have global impacts.

As the authors point out, forests absorb carbon. If tree die-offs continue at this rapid rate—exacerbated by warming temperatures and more extreme drought events—that carbon absorption function could be diminished enough over the next century to further accelerate warming.

2 thoughts on “Pine, Juniper forests predicted to disappear

  1. Although closely related, could ocean and atmospheric de-oxygenation be a more time critical issue than climate change?

    I reviewed the Scripps web page titled “Scripps O2 Program.”

    It indicated a slight decrease in atmospheric O2 concentrations over the past few decades. This caused me to wonder what affect this would have on Ocean Solute.

    Since ocean O2 solute concentration is a very small fraction of atmospheric concentration, and understanding that ocean O2 solute would seek partial pressure equilibrium with atmospheric O2, would a very small reduction in atmospheric O2 concentrations have significant impact on ocean O2 solute?

    Is it “probable” that O2 was “stored” as ocean solute when atmospheric O2 levels were somewhat higher than in this emerging Anthropocene; and that any appreciable reduction in atmospheric O2 concentration would require that “stored” oxygen in the ocean come out of solution?

    Could this process mask the true nature of unbound O2 trends?

    In my review of this subject I noted that Billfish habitat compression due to ocean de-oxygenation amounted to over 15% of total volume since 1960. Is it probable that atmospheric de-oxygenation is playing a significant role in trending ocean de-oxygenation; beyond that caused from eutrophication and increasing water temperature?

  2. This study is a serious stretch of common sense… Regardless though, how arrogant are we to say that the current climate, in this snapshot of time we live in is perfect; given the age of the earth. Personally, given my allergies and distaste for cold… Bring on the global warming!

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