Let’s Reforest America to Act on Climate!
Climate Change is Threatening America’s Forests
Across much of the United States, America’s forests are facing unprecedented threats from climate change, including rising temperatures, increased and prolonged drought, extreme weather events, pests and pathogens, and larger and more severe wildfires.
The combined effects of these threats are changing our forests. In some places, the forests are dying and other vegetation, like grassland, is growing in their place. America’s forests sequester carbon, clean our air and water, and provide timber, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities for millions of people. When we lose forests to fire and disease, we lose these benefits as well.
Some of these threats, like white pine blister rust, came from other countries. Other threats, like fire and native pests such as the mountain pine beetle, are part of healthy forest ecosystems. But due to climate change, our forests are stressed and vulnerable to disease, and their ecosystems are out of balance. In California alone, 149 million trees have died from climate change-related threats since 2010.
The good news is we can reforest disturbed or stressed forestland and restore and sustain America’s forests and their benefits. Reforestation includes planting tree seedlings and various other actions that help the forest regrow naturally. Reforestation helps native trees grow more quickly, and it jump-starts the production of forest benefits like carbon sequestration and clean water.
Trees can naturally regrow in a variety of ways: they release seeds to the wind, produce seeds that wildlife eat and distribute, or sprout new trees from their root system.
But the changing climate is making it harder for forests to regrow. For example, in 2014, the King Fire burned 64,000 acres in the Eldorado National Forest in California. Half of these acres lost all their trees, and many burned areas are now so far away from the surviving forest that it may take them generations to regrow on their own. Larger and more severe wildfires are now the main cause of regrowth failure in the Western United States – they are responsible for 80% of all the national forest lands that need reforestation.
Traditionally, our national forests regrow through natural processes on 60% of lands in need, and the U.S. Forest Service reforests the other 40% through tree planting. However, climate change-related barriers to forest regrowth have flipped this ratio – now 60% of national forestlands in need of reforestation require foresters to plant trees to ensure that the forest regrows.