Tree Teachings: How Fossil Fuels and Climate Change Are Altering the Global Forest


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Originally posted on Resilience.org

Written by Andrew Nikiforuk

The world’s most ancient trees are failing.

And their demise is telling us something about the dramatic impact of climate change on the natural world, says famed botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

The tree expert, who is also a medical biochemist, is clearly concerned, if not shaken.

These trees provided food, shelter and medicines for civilizations more ancient than the Romans and “are the backdrop to nature.”

In her bestseller The Sweetness of a Simple Life, Beresford-Kroeger described the global forest as “a molecular memo” that harvests one carbon atom at a time and “pulses that sweet gas we call oxygen, needed for every single breath we take.”

But the most ancient denizens of this forest are now dying and disappearing.

The botanist, who has been studying the health and importance of global forests for decades, rhymes off one example after another.

She begins with evergreens in the Atlas Mountains across northwest Africa.

For thousands of years cedar forests mixed with oak and juniper in the mountains have served as reservoirs for the entire region, ensuring flowing water for its rivers.

But warmer temperatures have dried up groundwater in mountain catchments and the blue cedar forests now are shrivelling.

Drought has concentrated the region’s 800,000 livestock, which has added to the deforestation. The illegal logging of valuable cedars has also taken a toll.

Lebanon’s great Biblical cedars are suffering a similar fate.

In one historic grove where Jesus is believed to have revealed himself to his followers after his resurrection, it used to snow and rain 105 days of the year.

Due to man-made climate change the trees can now only count on 40 days of moisture.

Climate change has also tipped the balance in favour of the cedar web-spinning sawfly, a pest unknown to science until 1998.

Global warming has brought earlier snowmelts that allow the insect to emerge just in time to munch on new cedar shoots. In the last decade the bug has killed nearly 10 per cent of Lebanon’s Tannourine forest…

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