Scientists are sending warnings that drought will impact all U.S. forests, and not just the ones in the western regions as it was previously believed. Many studies are currently being conducted in order to find better ways to manage the whole situation.
It is well known that very dry and warm conditions can have disastrous consequences on the vegetation of various regions and thus on the environment itself. Entire forests can be killed just by drought alone, and the rest that remain are prone to bark beetle infestations. Furthermore, the phenomenon causes unpredictable wildfires that can spread at high speeds.
Scientists believe these effects will spread to the east of the United States thus heavily modifying the biodiversity and species distribution across the whole country. However, no one can determine for sure the extent of the consequences of this drought.
A recent study was published in the Global Change journal last Monday by scientists from the US Geological Survey, the Duke University, the US Department of Agriculture and eleven more institutions. According to the report, even though the forests in the east of the U.S. have yet to go through the changes of the ones from the west, they are also vulnerable to drought. Unfortunately, the changes are occurring too quickly and trees do not have the necessary time to adapt, or in other words to expand their territory into more favorable habitats.
The new research has one major purpose: to understand the effects of climate change in order to find out how to better manage the situation and thus reduce the harmful effects on the surrounding environment.
The lead author of the newest study and Duke University environmental scientist, James Clark, has stated that at the moment scientists can predict the consequences of both drought and climate change on the trees of the U.S. forests.
The report that was released this week is a compilation of various studies on the status of rangelands and forests across the whole country. It is also a part of the US Global Change Research Program and the agriculture department larger report that was published earlier in February.
According to Dr. Clark,
“Ecologists have identified many of the important differences between species that explain how they respond differently to drought. But there’s still uncertainty about what might happen at the species-wide or stand-wide levels, particularly in Eastern forests.”
Drought will impact all U.S. forests whether we like it or not, and we will need to be prepared for the difficult times that will come in the future. These lands are even more important than we thought, since they contribute with $13 billion to the local economies, support over 200,000 jobs and are the primary resource of drinking water for more than sixty million Americans.
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