Study finds climate crisis accelerates tree death

The climate crisis is accelerating tree death across the globe, as fires, extreme heat and insect damage are affecting trees, according to a study.

There has been a concerted effort in recent years to plant trees since they suck in carbon dioxide, offsetting some carbon emissions.

However, researchers from the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences showed it could be risky to rely on forests, as trees release carbon when burnt and stop taking it in when they die from drought or insect damage.

The study modelled the risks of these threats in the United States and projected how they might increase over the century.

It was discovered that by 2099, United States forest fire risks may increase by between four to 14 times, depending on how much carbon the world is emitting.

trees on fire

Additionally, researchers found that the risk of climate-stress related tree deaths and insect mortality may double over time.

However, human action to tackle the climate emergency effected the models enormously, as when the severity of the crisis was reduced there was a reduction in fires, drought and insect induced forest die-offs.

‘U.S. forests could look dramatically different by the end of the century,’ said William Anderegg, study lead author and associate professor at the University of Utah. ‘More severe and frequent fires and disturbances have huge impacts on our landscapes. We are likely to lose forests from some areas in the Western U.S. due to these disturbances, but much of this depends on how quickly we tackle climate change.

‘Climate change is going to supercharge these three big disturbances in the U.S We’ve seen devastating fire seasons with increasing severity in the past several years. Generally, we expect the western U.S. to be hit hardest by all three of these. And they’re somewhat interconnected too.

‘Really hot and dry years, driven by climate change, tend to drive lots of fires, climate-driven tree mortality and insect outbreaks. But we have an opportunity here too. Addressing climate change quickly can help keep our forests and landscapes healthy.’

Photo by Matt Howard


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top