(Josh Haner for The New York Times) A mountainside in the
Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana shows an area recently burned beside a living stand of forest under attack by mountain pine beetles. The reddish trees are already dead.
WISE RIVER, Mont. -- The trees spanning many of the mountainsides of western Montana glow an earthy red, like a broadleaf forest at the beginning of autumn.
But these trees are not supposed to turn red. They are evergreens, falling victim to beetles that used to be controlled in part by bitterly cold winters. As the climate warms, scientists say, that control is no longer happening.
Across millions of acres, the pines of the northern and central Rockies are dying, just one among many types of forests that are showing signs of distress these days.- Advertisement -
From the mountainous Southwest deep into Texas, wildfires raced across parched landscapes this summer, burning millions more acres. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state's spectacular aspen forests have gone into decline because of a lack of water.
The devastation extends worldwide. The great euphorbia trees of southern Africa are succumbing to heat and water stress. So are the Atlas cedars of northern Algeria. Fires fed by hot, dry weather are killing enormous stretches of Siberian forest. Eucalyptus trees are succumbing on a large scale to a heat blast in Australia, and the Amazon recently suffered two "once a century" droughts just five years apart, killing many large trees.
Experts are scrambling to understand the situation, and to predict how serious it may become.
Scientists say the future habitability of the Earth might well depend on the answer. For, while a majority of the world's people now live in cities, they depend more than ever on forests, in a way that few of them understand. (FOR THE FULL ARTICLE CLICK HERE)