The rise of “Zombie Forests” is yet another dimension to the impacts of global warming on our planet. Yet, this issue hasn’t been getting the attention it requires. Researchers who found out about the growing danger are worried, and so should we. But what are zombie forests?
Across the western section of the United States lies her largest land masses of thick forests. From the Sierra Nevada to the magnificent rocky mountains, the landscape is breathtaking. Unfortunately, this area is under threat.
These forests, which boast some of the oldest and tallest congregations of conifers, are having a hard time reproducing after their kind. No thanks to the less comfortable temperatures caused by global warming. Forests that have this challenge are called zombie forests.
As the climate continues to warm, these ponderosa pines, sugar pines, Douglas firs, and other coniferous trees no longer enjoy the favorable weather conditions they require for reproduction. As a result, their population begins to reduce. The forests of California are the most hit by this phenomenon.
These trees are now living like ghosts as a result of the absence of conditions that support their existence. Hence, the name “Zombie Forest” perfectly captures their predicament.
Researchers have found that 20% of Sierra Nevada’s coniferous trees can’t cope with the region’s new temperatures. At the very least, this number of trees that are unable to produce saplings will double in the next 77 years.
One group of researchers from Stanford University has looked into the ecological crisis brewing out of California forests. In their findings which they published on February 28th, 2023, they provided more details about the predicament of the trees in the Sierra Nevada area.
When these expired trees are deprived of their friendly climate conditions, they live on borrowed time until they are wiped off the earth’s surface. Interestingly, global warming has increased the propensity and intensity of California wildfires which have become the most notorious tree exterminators. After dying, the old trees are replaced by new types of trees that are better suited for higher temperatures.
So what’s to blame? The prime culprit is humanity’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy supply. We can stem the tide of the zombie forest epidemic by minimizing our dependence on coal, oil, and gas.
When we burn these dirty fuels in our vehicles, industries, and cities, we release dangerous gasses into the atmosphere. These gasses destroy the ozone layer, a compound that serves as a protective shield against direct rays from the sun. When the ozone layer gets destroyed or depleted, the sun’s ultraviolet rays descend on the earth with greater heat, hence the rise in temperatures.
Included in the study was a map of the affected areas and the expected change after several years. However, the situation isn’t hopeless. States and local authorities can do a whole lot by deploying forest management strategies.
Internationally, nations can forge stronger collaborations to boost the dependence on clean or renewable energy sources such as solar, water, and wind. Embracing nuclear energy will also reduce our reliance on dirty energy.