The Great Lakes : forests in trouble and climate denial

We are seeing signs of the changing climate around the world and the region of the Great Lakes makes no exception. The effects of climate change ripple through the ecosystems, affecting both the lakes and the forests surrounding them.  Researcher Laura Briley said that the water tells us a lot about what’s going on : “Water temperatures have been increasing and in some cases increasing at a faster rate than air temperatures.

Forests in trouble

The vast forests surrounding the Great Lakes are also feeling the rapid changes.  “We know climate change is going to really stress these systems in ways they haven’t been stressed in the last several thousand years,” said Stephen Handler, a Houghton-based climate change specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.

If the trees get in trouble, everyone else also will. Many wildlife and plant species will be seriously impacted as their lives depend exclusively upon the forest. The uncertain fate of the forest will also impact us humans in various ways. The Great Lakes forestry industry is worth billions of dollars, besides, forests are also a part of the regional culture.

Some organizations are calling for early action. On local level, there are many different approaches that could help the forest deal with the changing conditions. Each tree species reacts differently,  some appear to be doing better than others. White pine and red oak are coping better with the new conditions than red pine and paper birch which are going to have a much harder time.

A recent study examined improving resistance by mixing leaf-shedding trees into pine forests, and found out that higher species diversity didn’t automatically improve the forest’s stability. It turned out that the composition of the species played an important role. The study concluded that red pines were more productive when paired with broad-leaf trees like trembling aspen and white birch.

Climate denial

Effective forest management can help us attenuate some of the effects of climate change on local level, but we need to focus on the root problems instead of just fighting against the symptoms. It seems that officials in the area of the Great Lakes are taking steps in the very opposite direction. Officials in Wisconsin “updated” the information about climate change on a state government website by replacing the science with unfounded claims just within days of Donald Trump’s US election victory.   They claim that the cause of the changing climate is still subject of “debate” : “The effects of such a change are also being debated but whatever the causes and effects, the DNR’s responsibility is to manage our state’s natural resources through whatever event presents itself; flood, drought, tornadoes, ice/snow or severe heat.” This is a very standard answer used by climate science deniers and especially by those who have direct interests in the industries that are causing climate change. Previously the same page on the website was headlined “Climate Change and Wisconsin’s Great Lakes” and echoed the scientific consensus while also stating several simple, verifiable facts. You can still view the old page in the archive and compare the stark difference yourself.

We can’t afford to keep on refusing to acknowledge the existence of the biggest problem that humanity is facing. We need to be talking about solutions, and this is precisely what climate change denial is aiming to obstruct and delay.



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