What you need to know, currently.
Old-growth forests are key to mitigating climate impacts—they store an incredible amount of carbon, act as the lungs of the earth, and cool their surroundings. Because they’re centuries old, they are more resistant to fire and extreme temperatures than their younger counterparts.
A study, published on Tuesday in Nature Communications uses a crowd sourced database in an effort to better understand the tipping points for mass forest die-offs. The database, which is now hosted by the International Tree Mortality Network, references forest die-offs at 675 locations, beginning in 1970. The findings were fairly grim.
Although reforestation is often touted as a climate solution, severe drought can permanently damage plant function and metabolism, leaving them more vulnerable to subsequent heat waves. Nearly half a billion trees have already died from extreme drought in Texas and California since 2010.
All is not lost, however. While the study predicts drastically simplified tree communities in the near-term, where many species die off, researchers are working to develop drought resistant trees, with denser root systems, that may be more reliably used in reforestation efforts.