Recently there were huge swaths of protected forest. But climate change is changing them. It is clear that “ghost forests” are growing in the USA. There are thousands of trunks without leaves and branches, stumps and felled trees.
Salt and drought
Tree death is an expected effect of rising sea levels. It exposes more land to salty water, which literally sucks moisture from the seeds and soil. However, it is not just a stretch of the narrow coast that is suffering from the invasion of the sea. Emily Ury, a biologist at Duke University in North Carolina, explains.
He analyzed thousands of NASA Landsat satellite images captured between 1985 and 2019. Ury and his colleagues did their calculations. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was taken as a reference. He’s in North Carolina. 85 square kilometers became ghost forests during this time. More than half of the new dead forests were more than 1 kilometer inland.
A number of factors caused the death of these inner forests. Kilometers of drainage ditches leading the seawater inland were dug. Massive storms accompanied Hurricane Irene in 2011, which turned out to be devastating.
The refuge was still recovering from a five year drought. Then the hurricane hit. The resulting damage was immense. In 2012 alone, there were more than 44 square kilometers of trees Ghosts. But the coastal land that is being lost due to the rise in sea levels is much less. Almost 11 square kilometers during the entire 35-year study period. “Spirit forests” grow faster in the US than land reclaimed from the sea.
Sea levels are rising in response to climate change. And hurricanes like Irene are likely to be more devastating and cause more flooding. The lesson learned in North Carolina should be a starting point. Future storm surges are expected worldwide, according to the study’s authors.