Global warming is slowly devastating the boreal forest aka the Earth’s second lung

Burned, drifting and eaten by insects, Canada’s boreal forest is shrinking and climate change is the cause.

Second only to the South American Amazon rainforest, the boreal forest is vital to securing the future of planet Earth, reports AFP. The forest that encircles the Arctic and stretches across Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and Alaska has recently been weakened by wildfires, melting permafrost, insect infestation, warming temperatures and tree drift.

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According to AFP, experts have emphatically warned that “the forest is encroaching on the tundra, and the grasslands are slowly taking the place of the trees”.

With rising temperatures, “drunken trees” have become a common occurrence; the trees are tilted laterally due to melting permafrost. Eventually the soil will completely erode and the wildlife will collapse.

An Edmonton-based researcher for the Department of Natural Resources warns “You have the potential for big changes”, adding that some areas could be flooded and even lose forests, which can eventually turn into bogs or swamps and lakes.

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The degradation of the permafrost is at the origin of this “buckling and subsidence”, the ground which for two years has remained frozen is melting.

With it, bacteria eat away at biomass collected for thousands of years, generating carbon and methane emissions that then contribute to accelerating global warming.

Data collected by Global Forest Watch, the World Resources Institute and the University of Maryland also found that extreme heat waves are five times more likely today than 150 years ago.

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The higher temperatures have also brought about another problem: insect infestations, which quickly eat away at the trees.

Wildlife, already weakened by heatwave-induced droughts, struggles to fend off insects that exploit longer summers and warmer winters.

Scientists according to AFP say that for now there is still hope for the continued resilience of the ecosystem, although they wonder if the “tipping point” of the forest, a threshold after which emissions will be inevitable and ecosystem changes irreversible, approach.

(With agency contributions)


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Teresa H. Sadler