“It’s a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest,” said the study’s lead author, David Lindemayer, a professor at Australian National University and an expert in landscape ecology and forest management. The research team found that big, old trees are dying at an alarmingly fast clip around the world at all latitudes – Yosemite National Park in California, the African savanna, the Brazilian rain forest, Europe and the boreal forests around the world. […]
The die-off of these 100-to-300-year-old trees raises concern, the researchers say, because they sustain biodiversity to a greater degree than many other components of the forest. “Big, old trees are not just enlarged young trees,” said Jerry F. Franklin of the University of Washington, a co-author of the study who has studied old-growth forest for 45 years. “Old trees have idiosyncratic features – a different canopy, different branch systems, a lot of cavities, thicker bark and more heartwood. They provide a lot more habitat and niches.”
Big trees also supply abundant food for numerous animals in the form of fruits, flowers, foliage and nectar, noted Bill Laurance, another co-author, from James Cook University in Australia. “Their hollows offer nests and shelter for birds and animals” and “their loss could mean extinction for such creatures,” he said. […]
The study is only the latest among many reports of how climate change and other factors are taking a severe toll on the world’s forests. British Columbia, for example, is ground zero for a giant forest die-off that is occurring across the Rockies. More than 53,000 square miles of forest there has died in the last decade. The largest previous die-off, in the 1980s, spanned 2,300 square miles. […]
A new fungal disease that is attacking Britain’s beloved ash trees has been front-page news there. It is feared that the fungus could claim more than 90 percent of Britain’s ash, as it has elsewhere in Europe.