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Sep 22, 2008

I recently spent the weekend in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.   We climbed high into the mountains and enjoyed spectacular views of snow capped mountains and verdant forests stretching as far as we could see.

 

As we headed over the pass to the Western side of the park, I was stunned by what I saw.  Probably 75% of the Lodgepole Pines were reddish brown – dead just this year from a fast moving beetle lodgepole pine forest, rocky mtn national parkinfestation.   I had heard of similar forest losses farther north, in British Columbia, but wasn’t prepared for such destruction in Colorado.  The forests are normally protected by bitterly cold winters that kill off the beetles, but global warming has allowed the beetles to survive and thrive.  I’ve since read that scientists believe nearly all Colorado Lodgepole Pine forests will be dead within 3 to 5 years.

 

The rapid loss of forest cover will have a profound impact on the ecosystem.   The trees not only provide shelter for wildlife, but they also prevent erosion, and increase cloud cover which leads to more rain in the region.  It will likely take decades for the landscape to recover, and future forests will be ecologically distinct from what has been there for millennia.   This reminds me of the American Chestnut – which used to be the dominant tree throughout much of the eastern US, but was almost entirely wiped out in the 1900s due to a fungus blight accidently introduced by humans.  The ecosystem has yet to fully recover.

 

If there’s a silver lining, my hope is that such a stunning sight will serve to motivate the public to act decisively to stop global warming.  One of the challenges has been that we hear stories of melting icebergs, polar bears lost at sea and growing desertification, but it all seems so foreign it doesn’t have the impact it would if it were local or more directly affecting us.   The rapid loss of Colorado forests is happening in the backyards of many Americans, and it’s easy to see the connection to global warming.

 

I can’t help but think we’re on the verge of many more unpleasant surprises as global warming tweaks the balance that has maintained ecosystems for so long.   Meteorologists believe global warming is behind the stronger storms in the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve heard from several folks who say their summer beach vacations were impacted by jellyfish invasions caused by warmer waters and pollution induced algae blooms.    We’re now seeing the impact all around us.

 

If you’ve experienced the negative effects of global warming, I invite you to share your stories below.  Thank you!

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Posted: Sep 22, 2008 11:01pm

 

 
 
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Author

Randy Paynter
, 1
Hillsborough, CA, USA
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