Scientists say Warming Is Already Damaging Rocky Mountain Forests

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 100,000 beetle-killed trees are falling to the ground every day just in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.

And that is just one eye-popping finding in the report that forecasts whole tree species, iconic to the Rocky Mountains, will be disappearing from their normal range if the climate continues to warm at its current rate.

“An unprecedented combination of tree-killing insects, wildfire and heat and dryness is putting the forests of the Rocky Mountains at great risk than ever before in U.S. history,” a report highlight states. “Scientific evidence shows that climate change is the major force driving these changes.”

The report models conditions, historical and future, for whitebark pines, for pinon pines and for aspens. For example, with medium-high levels of heat trapping emissions continuing, the report states, more than 75 percent of the historical range for aspens in the Rockies could become unsuitable for them by 2060.

“The future of Rocky Mountain forests ultimately depends on how much and how quickly we can curb heat-trapping emissions,” according to the document. If climate change continues abated, the landscape will be fundamentally altered.


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