Do you hear trees falling in the forest? It’s not good anymore. Last week, the Trump Administration announced changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Whether the move was motivated by politics or economy, its not good news for the plant — or for us. While the fiercely beautiful images of tigers come to mind, there are other life forms that will be impacted.
Trees on the chopping block?
Over the past few decades, global warming has purportedly caused drastic changes in weather patterns and the rising ocean levels. There are other lives on the line that may be getting overlooked. In the near future, we will may be sure to notice as our trees will be no longer blocking the sun’s spotlight. The reduction in paper production is a small step in saving a forest, but much more is at stake with the massive die-off of dozens of tree species. Hearing trees fall in forest is not a good thing nowadays.
There are so many unrecognized threats to trees, no matter which geographic climate is being discussed. One particular desert species, the Screwbean mesquite, is dying off at a disturbing rate. It may seem like a trivial matter if a desert plant is disappearing, but these trees have thrived for thousands of years — their sudden die-off is alarming. Some are under attack from parasites while others are unable to cope with invasive species and warming temperatures.
It’s a growing global problem
Not just American trees are affected. The distinctive and long-live African African baobab is also in serious decline. These trees are synonymous with the classic African skyline. This species can live for nearly 2,000 years but, something critical is changing and they are dying off quickly. So far, scientists suspect that prolonged droughts and warmer temperatures are to blame. That says a lot for a plant native to the African Savannah.
The devastating cycle of wildfires in the California forests are fueled by the death of millions of trees. Some studies place the numbers of tress that have died recently at about 28 million. This incredible number of dead and dying trees have turned parts of the California landscape into a giant tinderbox. Now trees falling in the forest is really not good.
Included in the threatened trees are the famous Joshua trees in Southern California. In this case, its not just the effect of climate change on the trees themselves, but also a tiny moth. The Yucca moth and the Joshua tree are co-dependent in the extreme. The moths are struggling in the colder sections and the trees are not maturing properly. The national park could be without it’s namesake in another 80 years.
They’re just trees, right?
So why should we care? For the most part, trees are just background scenery. But when we think about them, we appreciate their shade in the summer and their fruit at harvest time. We use their wood to enjoy a camp fire, build our furniture and our homes. Evergreen trees are an integral part of Christmas memories. So many of us remember traipsing into the winter woods to find the perfect tree. How sad that this may become a distant memory as many pine trees are also dying off. Trees falling in the forest no longer mean the perfect Christmas.
Trees provide life-giving oxygen and help keep the planet cooler. Without the lush canopy in South and Central America, the equatorial heat would be even more unbearable for countless species. In addition, thousands of different species depend on trees — including us! The revisions to the Endangered Species Act will affect plant life as well.
The Endangered Species Act Matters
Some government agencies claim that the revisions simply afford the Fish and Wildlife Service more latitude to protect all endangered plants and animals. But, along with eliminating some of the so-called red tape, there is a new economic provision. Agencies can now weigh the cost of extending protection to a potentially threatened species. This effectively places a cost on life. Those that are deemed too costly to save, will die out.
It’s true that we humans are conserving some of our national resources like finding alternatives to paper, which saves some trees. But unless we figure out how to reverse the damage, many of our treasured trees may simply cease to exist.
So, the next hot, summer afternoon, enjoy the sounds of the wind through the tree leaves. When fall arrives, relish the sound and pungent aroma of the crushed fallen leaves. In the not too distant future, these simple pleasures may be in short supply. Do you hear trees falling in the forest? It’s definitely not a good thing.