Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Forests in the Rocky Mountains are getting clobbered

Posted By on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 at 5:10 PM

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Today, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Union of Concerned Scientists (which has some credibility troubles of its own in a different arena) released a report titled “Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk,” which details the hit Rocky Mountain forests are taking from drought, fires, insects and heat, all brought about by climate change.

"The report includes new data, that report authors developed with the U.S. Forest Service, showing that the amount of land in the Rockies that can support conifer species and aspen will be cut in half, at a minimum, and will all but disappear in some cases in about 45 years," reads a press release. "For example, in Montana and Colorado, which have the most aspens, the changes could be net reductions of 71 and 45 percent respectively in areas climatically suitable for aspens by 2060."

Here are more takeaways, with the full report below:
Bark beetle outbreaks have killed trees on a larger scale than ever recorded. In the past 15 years, the beetles have killed trees on western forest lands nearly equal to the size of Colorado. They are killing at a faster rate and on a larger scale than seen in 100 to 150 years of record-keeping.

Wildfires in the West are burning more land. Between 1984 and 2011, there has been a 73 percent increase in the average annual frequency of large wildfires (more than 1,000 acres) in the Rocky Mountains.

• More western trees are dying for no apparent cause. The rate at which western trees have died from no obvious cause—such as insect infestations or wildfire—has doubled in recent decades, with a sharp increase in recent years. Scientists suggest that hotter and drier conditions across the West are driving the increase in mortality.

• In the West, temperatures have risen on average about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895 and drought has become more widespread. If climate change continues unchecked, scientists expect the region to become even hotter and drier—and the impacts on its forests even more severe. While all such projections have inherent uncertainty, they suggest that continued climate change could make the Rocky Mountains less suitable for the conifer species that primarily make up the region’s forests.

Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk

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