Trees That Once Survived Fire Now Die

Trees That Once Survived Fire Now Die, say scientists, reports Christopher Joyce atNPR. A nice little ground fire every few decades cleans house in the forest, burning the grass and brush, and maybe some smaller trees — the “ladder fuels” that might carry a fire up into the tree canopy. Those canopy fires are the worst kind — they kill forests. But scientists are discovering that some trees in the West that previously would survive and thrive with small fires are now losing their ability to do so. Although trees have historically adapted to heat and drought, over long periods of such climate they are weakened by it. With little water present, trees end up sucking up air bubbles, too, which then clog their tubes, preventing them from getting water. Weakened trees are then unable to survive even small fires. This fire vulnerability is being seen throughout the numerous national parks of the West.  Ultimately, air temperature is driving the system: even with decent rainfall, a hot atmosphere can suck the water right out of the ground, before plants ever have a chance of getting it.


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About melharte

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte is a biologist (PhD) and climate change educator. She co-authored the free online book, COOL THE EARTH, SAVE THE ECONOMY, available at www.CoolTheEarth.US, and writes the CLIMATE CHANGE THIS WEEK column at the HuffingtonPost. Living summers in the alpine Rockies, she is on the frontlines of watching what climate change can do. Her diagnostic digital photographs of wildflowers have appeared in numerous publications.
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