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Expansive stands of standing dead trees, called “ghost forests,” are becoming more common on the low-lying Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in North Carolina. Photo: Paul Taillie
When saltwater inundates coastal forests as sea levels rise, it kills salt-sensitive trees, leaving “ghost forests” of bare snags behind. A new study from North Carolina State University revealed that changes in vegetation as salt water moves further inland posed very different outcomes for different varieties of coastal bird species. Surprisingly, species of high conservation value responded positively to the ghost forests— for instance, the northern bobwhite quail, which has been doing poorly across most of its range in recent years.
However, other species that live in closed-canopy forests not affected by saltwater intrusion, such as the hooded warbler, lost habitat when ghost forests formed.
The mid-Atlantic is sinking faster than nearly anywhere else. The Gulf Stream has been shifting northward, bringing warmer water to the region, accelerating sea level rise. Meanwhile, groundwater pumping and natural geological processes are causing lands to sink.
High tides rose here by several inches during a recent decade. That was more than three times faster than the average rate of sea level rise worldwide, simulating conditions expected globally during decades to come.
This means that we are just beginning to understand how this accelerated sea level rise will affect plant and animal species.
Why This Matters: The researchers explained that overall, ghost forests supported a different group of bird species than the forests they replaced. There’s still so much we don’t know about how climate change will affect our planet and how it might shift entire ecosystems. While these ghost forests may soon welcome an entirely new group of bird species, we can’t yet say how this will affect all other animals in the ecosystem. What we do know is that a shift from verdant woodlands to ghost forests/marshes will mean that this land will be far less able to absorb and store carbon dioxide as forests are one of the best weapons we have to fight climate change.
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor The maned wolf is certainly a unique animal, with long legs, massive ears, and bright red fur. Many might compare it to a fox, but it’s actually South America’s largest canid species. And not only is the maned wolf elusive — it’s endangered. Researchers working with Rewilding Argentina and […]
Today is International Red Panda Day! These iconic and adorable creatures are worth celebrating for many reasons, but they’re also in need of serious protection. This cat-sized, fluffy-tailed animal is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Climate change and rising temperatures are reducing the red panda’s […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer In honor of World Animal Day on October 4th, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is hosting a virtual auction called “Art to Roam” in collaboration with Australian auction house Leonard Joel and creative studios worldwide. The event will raise funds for international artists, and also for the […]
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