Tuesday, December 09, 2008

There goes the whitebark pine

I'm reading Jared Diamond's book Collapse, and if I were asked for a theme it would be trees. Societies that don't respect, protect, and maintain their trees lose top soil, watersheds, environmental stability. This article touches on the very points:

WASHINGTON — The whitebark pine, a tree found in the high elevations of the western U.S. and Canada, is being killed as a consequence of global warming and should be protected as an endangered species, an environmental group formally told the Interior Department Tuesday.

If the federal government accepts the scientific arguments in a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council, it would be the first time a wide-ranging tree has been added to the list. The NRDC also sees an endangered designation as a warning about worsening climate change.


The whitebark pine has declined dramatically due to a triple threat — a disease called the white pine blister rust; the mountain pine beetle, which thrives in the warmer high-altitude conditions produced by the burning of fossil fuels, and forest management practices that have allowed other trees to crowd it out, the NRDC's petition said.

Warming also will limit the range of the whitebark pine, the petition said. Many live more than 500 years.

"It's kind of a wakeup call about the scope of the problems we're going to be facing," said NRDC scientist Sylvia Fallon, an ecologist who was one of the authors of the petition. "All of the pieces of the ecosystem it holds together will also be affected by its loss."

The whitebark pine stabilizes the soil and shades the snow, providing water over longer periods for other plants. Grizzly bears, smaller mammals and birds eat its seeds, and elk, grouse and other mountain animals find shelter beneath it.

Seems that everything everywhere is in trouble....

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