By Zoë Schlanger On 7/20/16 at 9:00 AM
A subalpine forest in Colorado. Forests in the southwestern U.S. are expected to be among the hardest hit by climate change, according to projections in a paper published Wednesday. Sydne Record
Trees can slow the warming of our planet by taking carbon out of the air, but only if they’re healthy. And hotter, longer summers could soon be weakening trees beyond repair, devastating whole forests across North America and turning them into sources of carbon, in some cases as soon as 2050.
That’s the upshot of an ominous new study published Wednesday in the journal Ecology Letters. “It’s like a thermostat gone bad,” said Margaret Evans, an assistant research professor in the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR) and a lead author on the study. “Forests act as a carbon sink by taking carbon dioxide out of atmosphere, but the more the climate is warming, the slower the trees are growing, the less carbon they suck up, the faster the climate is changing.” Read more.