Arizona’s Piñon Pines are Dying

It’s not easy to kill a full-grown tree — especially one like the piñon pine. It’s one of the southwest’s hardiest evergreens…but it IS happening due to both drought and climate change.

Pinon Pines

It turns out that piñon pines respond to drought by closing the pores in their needle-like leaves to stop water loss. That keeps them from going thirsty, but it also prevents them from breathing in the carbon dioxide they need to live — and eventually, the drought-stressed trees simply suffocate.

As the Arizona Republic recently reported: Famed Biosphere 2 lab researchers for the first time isolated heat as a factor in tree deaths. They found that an increase of only about 7-degrees Fahrenheit could trigger piñon die-offs five times more frequently than under existing conditions. Many climate studies say temperatures could rise that much by the end of the century.

If widespread die-offs occur over and over, the forests might never fully recover, resulting in the collapse of ecosystems and the loss of the benefits they provide to humans. A piñon forest can support a wildlife community, prevent erosion and floods, regulate runoff into rivers and absorb carbon dioxide, one of the gases blamed for climate change.

So here, at a.k.a. Green, in previous weeks, we had come across an article that made us think “deja vu”. Sure enough, it was an article regarding the giant trees at Yosemite and immediately wondered about the direct correlation and rates of decline. Hmmm Thoughts?

~ by akagreen on June 10, 2009.

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