Opinion: Climate change is destroying our Tahoe, Sierra forests
August 2, 2016
This is in response to the story, "Fires, drought and beetles taking toll on Lake Tahoe-area forest," published July 11 at SierraSun.com.
The lead of this story should be — "Climate change is destroying our California forests."
Yes, bark beetles and fires are the proximate agents that kill trees, but they have killed trees for millions of years and forests have persevered. Healthy forests help provide climate stability by capturing, sequestering and slowly releasing CO2.
In the last 50 years, however, CO2 levels increased due to greenhouse gas emission by 40 percent to over 400 ppm, which increased average global temperatures, which has fueled climate change (drought) in the Southern Sierra, which, in turn, has accelerated bark beetle activity and wildfires to unprecedented levels.
The resultant release of CO2 from the dead trees reinforces the atmospheric CO2 levels, closing a self-reinforcing feedback loop — a forest death spiral. In recent decades, we saw this play out with disastrous consequences in the Rocky Mountain forests of Canada and the western United States.
It is not comforting for those of us who love our forests to read an article in which our forestry professionals only describe the proximate causes of the problem, not the ultimate, underlying cause — climate change.
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It suggests that they will be treating only the symptoms as the British Columbians did, while helplessly witnessing the destruction of enormous expanses of Canadian forests by bark beetles.
It is critical that the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit not only address the bark beetle and fire issues, but immediately address the ultimate cause by managing their 155,000 acre forest to optimize sequestration of CO2. This would be a major contribution to climate stabilization.
Meanwhile, we citizens who love our forests can help by redoubling our efforts to manage at-home energy use, landscapes and transportation choices to reduce our CO2 emissions.
South Lake Tahoe