Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Dying trees in Southwest set stage for erosion, water loss in Colorado River

New research concludes that a one-two punch of drought and mountain pine beetle attacks are the primary forces that have killed more than 2.5 million acres of pinyon pine and juniper trees in the American Southwest during the past 15 years, setting the stage for further ecological disruption.
The widespread dieback of these tree species is a special concern, scientists say, because they are some of the last trees that can hold together a fragile ecosystem, nourish other plant and animal species, and prevent serious soil erosion.

The major form of soil erosion in this region is wind erosion. Dust blowing from eroded hills can cover snowpacks, cause them to absorb heat from the sun and melt more quickly, and further reduce critically-short water supplies in the Colorado River basin.

The findings were published in the journal Ecohydrology by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and the Conservation Biology Institute in Oregon. NASA supported the work.

“Pinyon pine and juniper are naturally drought-resistant, so when these tree species die from lack of water, it means something pretty serious is happening,” said Wendy Peterman, an OSU doctoral student and soil scientist with the Conservation Biology Institute. “They are the last bastion, the last trees standing and in some cases the only thing still holding soils in place.”

“These areas could ultimately turn from forests to grasslands, and in the meantime people are getting pretty desperate about these soil erosion issues,” she said. “And anything that further reduces flows in the Colorado River is also a significant concern.”

It’s not certain whether or not the recent tree die-offs are related to global warming, Peterman said. However, the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that while most of the United States was getting warmer and wetter, the Southwest will get warmer and drier. Major droughts have in fact occurred there, and the loss of pinyon pine and juniper trees would be consistent with the climate change projections, Peterman said.

Pinyon pine and juniper are the dominant trees species in much of the Southwest, routinely able to withstand a year or two of drought, and able to grow in many mountainous areas at moderate elevation. The trees are common in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and may have expanded their range in the past century during conditions that were somewhat wetter than normal.

In some places up to 90 percent of these trees have now died, many of them during a major drought in 2003 and 2004. The new research concluded that most of the mortality occurred in shallow soils having less than four inches of available water in about the top five feet of the soil column.

Most of the tree mortality, the scientists said, was caused by trees being sufficiently weakened by drought that opportunistic bark beetle epidemics were able to kill the pinyon pine, and the vascular system of the juniper ceased to function.

Traditionally, pinyon pine and juniper were not considered trees of significant value. They were occasionally used for firewood, but otherwise small and not particularly impressive.

They perform key ecosystem functions, however, not the least of which is stabilizing soils and preventing erosion. They also provide some food in the form of pine nuts and juniper berries, and store carbon in their biomass, and in the soils beneath their canopies.

About the OSU College of Forestry: For a century, the College of Forestry has been a world class center of teaching, learning and research. It offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in sustaining ecosystems, managing forests and manufacturing wood products; conducts basic and applied research on the nature and use of forests; and operates 14,000 acres of college forests.

Wendy Peterman | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>