The Rise of Ghost Forest

Once were where countless trees and other organism used to thrive, now a barren land falling into the abyss of silence except the lapping deadly saltwater. These eerie silhouettes did not appear out of thin air; they are, in fact, witnesses and victims of the increasingly rising sea level.

Since the beginning of Industrial Revolution, massive amounts of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of earth’s surface temperature (“Ocean acidification”, 2017). Scientific evidences have shown that the ocean, has absorbed more than 93% of released anthropogenic heat since the 1970s, due to the water’s high heat capacity (Reid, 2016). The absorption has driven the sea level to rise at an unprecedented rate, much faster than what scientists have previously predicted. As a matter of fact, the Pacific Ocean has been warming 15 times faster in the past 6 decades than it did for the past millennia (Vergano, 2013). Consequently, salt water has been being push further inland, inundating non- coastal forest areas and killing salt- intolerant flora.

Along the east coast of North America, salt marshes have conquered thousands of acres of land, leaving nothing but barren trunks stretching from New Jersey to as far south as Florida. Known as ghost forests, some scientists have deemed this phenomenon as “a dramatic expression of climate change” (Drouin, 2016). The prolonged exposure to water is not merely attributed to soil erosion, but also the acceleration of nutrient breakdown and leakage. More nutrient runoff could give a boost to algae bloom that exacerbates aquatic habitat as it rapidly depletes oxygen in the water, thus placing more environmental burdens on the stressed land (Kaye, 2017). Furthermore, the disappearance of healthy forests will eventually result in the collapse of the local ecosystems. “It was dry, usable land 50 years ago; now it’s marshes with dead stumps and dead trees,” said Professor Matthew Kirwan, a ghost forest researcher from Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Parry, 2017).

As harsh as it sounds, we are running out of excuses for ignoring climate change amidst the age of Anthropocene. For the sake of the environment and subsequent generations, we must start our journey on fighting against climate change. No more excuse, no more procrastination.

 

Written By: Hong Hui (Y2 NVB)

 

References:

Drouin, R. (2016, November 1). How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands. YaleEnviroment360. Retrieved from http://e360.yale.edu/features/ghost_forest_rising_sea_levels_killing_coastal_woodlands

Kaye, L. (2017, August 3). Sea Level Rise Creating ‘Ghost Forests,’ New Wetlands Along Eastern Seaboard. TriplePundit. Retrieved from http://www.triplepundit.com/2017/08/sea-level-rise-creating-ghost-forests-along-u-s-east-coast/

Morton, S.B. (Photographer). (2017, June 16). Ghost Forest [digital image]. Retrieved from http://nationalpost.com/news/world/seas-rise-trees-die-climate-change-before-your-eyes

Ocean acidification. (2017, April 27). National Geographic. Retrieved from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/oceans/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/

Parry, W. (2017, August 1). The Startling ‘Ghost Forests’ of The East Coast: Climate Change before Your Eyes. National Post. Retrieved from http://nationalpost.com/news/world/seas-rise-trees-die-climate-change-before-your-eyes

Reid, P. C. (2016). Ocean Warming: Setting The Scene. In: Laffoley, D., & Baxter, J.M. (editors). (2016). Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences. Full report. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 19. Retrieved from https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2016-046_0.pdf

Vergano, D. (2013, November 1). Ocean Warming Faster Now Than in 10,000 Years. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131031-climate-ocean-temperatures-years/

 

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