August 14, 2008

World Forests Face Multiple Threats

It’s hardly news that forests the world over are in danger from logging, human encroachment and other threats, but news stories in recent weeks have pointed to new developments — and partial solutions to the problem.

The forests of England are facing their worst crisis since the last Ice Age, according to the London Telegraph, with native species threatened by invaders, development and climate change.

Dr. Keith Kirby, a woodland scientist with the group Natural England, told the newspaper: “Climate change will have a (big) impact over the next five decades. Our woods will change. Many species will cope with some warming but there is uncertainty about what happens with extreme events such as droughts and storms, which we expect to become more frequent.”

But the news is not all bad for British forests.

London’s Sunday Times reported that, in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, it is helping to plant the largest new continuous native forest in the nation.

They are currently working toward securing 850 acres in Hertfordshire, an area that already contain 44 acres of ancient forest.

The project will plant 600,000 new trees in the region, even though it is one of the most densely populated areas in the country.

Despite this conservationist trend, European Union nations are still major importers of illegal timber, according to ClimateChangeCorp, a London-based environmental news Web site for businesses.

Europe spent $17 billion on illegally logged timber in 2007, with the United Kingdom as the largest customer.

The harvest comes mostly from tropical nations in Africa and Asia, and is imported under a loophole that exempts wood products — such as plywood or paper — from international treaties protecting endangered tree species.

And to the list of threats faced by, here’s a new one: snakes.

The Washington Post reported that the trees of the U.S.-administered Pacific island of Guam are being destroyed — indirectly — by the brown tree snake.

The nonnative reptile was already a symbol of the dangers of introduced species after it was blamed for the extinction of nearly all the native birds on the island.

According to biologist Haldre Rogers, the snakes’ devastating effects on the island’s birds has also impacted trees, which rely on birds to spread seeds.

Because so few birds are left on Guam, the trees’ reproductive cycle is seriously compromised.

“Unfortunately, Guam is a laboratory of sorts for what happens when an invasive species brings major change,” the Post quoted Rogers as saying. “You can’t really see it yet, but it appears that the indirect consequences for the forest can be as important as the direct consequences we saw on the bird population.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Enchanting forest”
Times of London, August 10, 2008

“Traditional forests endangered by climate change and disease”
Telegraph (UK), August 3, 2008

“Snake’s Impact on Guam Appears to Extend to Flora”
Washington Post, August 11, 2008

“Illegal timber: Europe’s doors still wide open”
Climatechangecorp.com, August 7, 2008

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