Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finding Where U.S. Forests Have Been Undisturbed for a Quarter Century « Landsat Science

Finding Where U.S. Forests Have Been Undisturbed for a Quarter Century « Landsat Science:

This is a very cool study of the "old forests" that are undisturbed in the USA. The Northeast and the pacific maintained some undisturbed forests; the south was really bad. There are many plants, animals and entire ecosystems that rely on old forests. This study demonstrates how bad it is and how much worse it could get over the next few generations (of humans).

This is a 25 year study using landsat technology (through 2010), so it doesn't address the prior 200 years since the pilgrims came to visit north america.

One of the things that we harp on endlessly at this cite is the compounding effects of human actions. In this case. The study uses exponential decay to show the compounding effects of old forest degradation. In 100 years there would be only about 20% of the old forest left in a business as usual (BAS) scenario. But that number would drop to only about 4% in another 100 years. That means that in 200 to 300 years we could expect virtually no old forests to exist.

It would be interesting if the last 10 years are significantly different. The Great Recession caused commodity prices to plummet. Wood and paper were especially hard hit. The demise of coal -- mining and burning -- in the US would help as well. Urban sprawl, slowed to a crawl.

Haung points out that the big opportunities to mitigate (old) forest loss is in the south and by minimizing fires in the west. Of course, if we let the old forest go to near zero, we could have an easy opportunity for exponential regrowth. (I'm being facetious, of course, once forest -- especially old forest -- has be used for other purposes, it is nearly impossible to move it back to nature and keep it there for 100 years or more.)

Doctor Haung, what do you think the current trend might be? Are we starting to "bend the curve" (as the old addage in finance and climate change goes)?

Visit Dr. haung's Page at U of Maryland and see a link to the study here:

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