Ghost forests are taking over the North Carolina coast at a much faster rate than expected. The reason behind this is the increase in sea levels.
Tens of thousands of acres of dead greenery have been found near North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. According to recent research, this area was filled with green, luscious trees. Now all of this greenery is transformed into a lifeless scene. Notably, an area in the above-mentioned region has lost around 11% of the trees in the forest.
These ghost forests are evident in the fact that climate change is real and it’s happening right now. Rising sea level is a side effect of climate change and is human-driven.
This study is done by Duke University, was published on Sunday, in the journal Ecological Applications.
Emily Ury, a biologist with her team, analyzed thousands of NASA’s satellite images from the year 1985-2019. Shockingly, more than 21,000 acres of trees have turned into ghost forests within this period.
North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
If you’ll go for a walk across the coast of North Carolina, you’ll witness the death of forests everywhere. Either the trees are dead or about to die. You’ll see some of the trees growing underwater, weak and pale. Thin trunks of these once-green trees are submerged under salty water. This is not a normal scene and there are multiple reasons behind this unusual phenomenon.
Firstly, it is important to understand that permanent floods in this coastal region are very common. Secondly, climate change is not new, we’re talking about it, just talking? Maybe, for a very long time.
However, as the sea level rises, the land is exposed to more saline water. If you know a little bit about plants, then it’s understood that salty water or any kind of salinity is not good for plants and trees. What does it do? It sucks the moisture out from their roots.
Sea-water is not going to take all the responsibility for forests disappearance. Therefore, a storm surge which was complemented by Hurricane Irene in 2011, played a major role in this devastation. The damage at that time was intense, it flooded everything which came into sight. Still, this region is in recovery mode. Researchers said that these dead forest areas were clearly visible from the space.
“Like all living organisms, trees die. But what is happening here is not normal. Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously, and saplings aren’t growing to take their place. And it’s not just a local issue.” said Emily Ury.
Researchers termed this area as “the leading edge of climate change.”
If this is not shocking enough, then, you should know that all of this is exacerbating climate change. As the plants are becoming weak, their ability to absorb Carbon dioxide has reduced significantly. As a result, not enough oxygen is generated for humans and animals.
Researchers of the North Carolina study argued that if this situation doesn’t slow down, then, consequences like contaminated water and low crop production are going to grow with time.
In the paper, Ury wrote “living shorelines made of plants, sand, and rock to provide natural buffering from storm surge,” according to her, this will be a step towards solving this problem. Also, restoration of forests and raising awareness about these phenomena are steps, we as a community can take to curb the situation.