2442248556096741

Browsed by
Tag: New Jersey

Ghost forests creep up U.S. East Coast

Ghost forests creep up U.S. East Coast


New Jersey’s Atlantic white cedar forests are turning from green to a pale white, a sign of creeping sea levels and more frequent superstorms.


Shawn LaTourette sees a warning on the coast of New Jersey in the miles of Atlantic white cedar trees that have devolved into what researchers call ghost forests. 

It’s a term that points to the visceral changes of the landscape — going from lush green to a pale white — and the destruction of the area’s crucial role as a biodome and coastal buffer. These once-thriving forests are a direct result of climate change as the trees are suffocated by saltwater intrusion sparked by sea level rise and an uptick of hurricanes and superstorms.  

“If we pay close attention to our environment, we often see that it sends us signals,” LaTourette, the state’s commissioner of environmental protection, said while walking along a ghost forest spanning more than 300 acres in southern New Jersey. “This is a signal about that risk that we all face from saltwater intrusion from storm surge.”

Climate change is causing whole forests to die, like this one in New Jersey. The Atlantic White Cedar is particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment like salt water intrusion from storm surges and sea level rise.
Climate change is causing whole forests to die, like this one in New Jersey. The Atlantic White Cedar is particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment like salt water intrusion from storm surges and sea level rise. New Parks and Forestry

The Atlantic white cedar forests are seen as the first line of defense on New Jersey’s coast. They thrive in freshwater wetlands — swamps so thick that extreme caution and a good pair of wader boots are necessary in order to walk through them. As sea levels rise, these trees are hit first, and the saltwater intrusion is killing them due to their sensitive nature. That water will then move on to inundate farm fields, peoples’ homes, drinking water and businesses.

Along much of the Eastern Seaboard, the once-healthy coastal woodlands are dwindling rapidly — to the extent that if the rate of decline continues, these forested wetlands will reach the “point of no return within the century,” according to  University of Virginia and Duke University researchers focused on studying the ecosystems. Ghost forests are already a problem all along the East Coast and in states along the Gulf Coast, such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Coastal woodlands like these are critical ecosystems in the United States, as they filter pollutants, act as natural barriers and store carbon in the ground. But their positioning on the coast puts them at the vanguard of rising sea levels brought on by the warming atmosphere, therefore worsening some of the effects of climate change.

Forests are dying up and down the East Coast and along the Gulf Coast due to climate change. Researchers are studying trees like these at the Alligator River in North Carolina that are forming ghost forests.
Forests are dying up and down the East Coast and along the Gulf Coast due to climate change. Researchers are studying trees like these at the Alligator River in North Carolina that are forming ghost forests.Marcelo Ardon / North Carolina State University

“To be able to look at these forests and see that this is a direct result from climate change is frightening,” says Kristin Meistrell, a Stewardship Project director for the New Jersey Audubon Society, which focuses on environmental awareness and conservation. Meistrell has worked here for nearly  10 years and recalls walks she used to take on the property when she  started in 2012, surrounded by live Atlantic white cedar trees. Since then, she’s watched the forests completely die off.

“I think every community, every resident, every business has to ask itself hard questions.”

SHAWN LATOURETTE, NEW JERSEY COMMISSIONER OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

The state and environmental groups are scrambling to restore the cedar species in environments that aren’t as immediately threatened by impending storm surges. Foresters and environmental groups are largely focused on restoring forests in new homes, where they won’t be hit by sea level rise. The groups have cleared out large swaths of land typically filled with other hardwoods like maple, to allow remaining healthy cedars to drop seeds naturally with adequate space and access to sunlight. The New Jersey Audubon Society leverages farmers’ and hunters’ attachment to the land, working with them on their private property to develop forest stewardship plans to manage the property for wildlife like these cedars. 

“We’re trying to put this forest type back on the landscape,”  State Forester John Sacco said. “When we do that, we’re introducing biodiversity. There are suites of organisms that occur with this forest type that you really don’t find in other forests. It increases biodiversity, helps with resiliency, and it’s part of our natural heritage that we need to keep around and bequeath to the next generation.” 

This will take some time. A healthy cedar forest will take decades to develop, and they’re playing catch up after losing more than 80 percent of the woodlands due to logging over the last two centuries. 

Trees like the Atlantic White Cedar were decimated in the past centuries mostly due to logging for construction.
Trees like the Atlantic White Cedar were decimated in the past centuries mostly due to logging for construction. Only about 20,000 acres of Atlantic White Cedar remain in New Jersey from the 125,000 acres at the time of European settlement. New Jersey Parks and Forestry

Growing new trees in safer homes is just one conservation method in their toolbox, as New Jersey and other states also focus on protecting what already exists. The Nature Conservancy works on refuges along the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where it is building oyster reefs and ditch networks to slow down erosion and control water running upstream, and adding more vegetation that can tolerate salt water into the peat soils where the trees typically grow, making root systems more sturdy. 

The scientists from University of Virginia and Duke project that coastal forested wetlands will be “drowned and salted out of existence through the North American Coastal Plain within 100 years,” but also note this isn’t the only region globally that’s at risk. Environments in Brazil, Ukraine and Mozambique have similar wetland ecosystems, but don’t currently have research available. 

“I think every community, every resident, every business has to ask itself hard questions,” LaTourette said, “about whether it is positioned to confront the ravages of climate change.”

Source:

Andrew Bossone and Maura Barrett at NBC News



New York, New Jersey declare emergencies, at least six reported dead in record rains

New York, New Jersey declare emergencies, at least six reported dead in record rains


The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency late on Wednesday as record-breaking rains from tropical storm Ida led to flooding and hazardous conditions on the roads, with media reporting at least six deaths.


“I am declaring a state of emergency to help New Yorkers affected by tonight’s storm,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Twitter.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described the flooding and weather on Wednesday night as a “historic weather event”.

At least one person was killed in flash flooding that inundated the New Jersey city of Passaic, Mayor Hector Lora told CNN.

NBC New York reported that one more person had died in New Jersey and four had died in New York City on Wednesday night when they were trapped in their basements as the storm sent water surging through the city.

Lora said the body of a man in his seventies was retrieved from floodwaters. The vehicle the man was riding in was swept away by the water, and firefighters were in turn swept under the vehicle making it nearly impossible for them to reach the man, CNN reported.

Nearly all New York City subway lines were suspended late on Wednesday as the remnants of Ida brought drenching rain and the threat of flash floods and tornadoes to parts of the northern mid-Atlantic, CNN reported earlier.

All non-emergency vehicles were banned from New York City’s streets until 5 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Thursday due to the weather, city authorities said on Twitter.

At least five flash-flood emergencies were issued on Wednesday evening by the National Weather Service, stretching from just west of Philadelphia through northern New Jersey.

Earlier in the night, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also declared a state of emergency in response to Ida.

All New Jersey Transit rail services apart from the Atlantic City Rail Line were suspended due to the extreme weather, the service said on its website.

Storm damage from Ida astounded officials three days after the powerful hurricane pounded southern Louisiana, as reconnaissance flights revealed entire communities devastated by wind and floods. read more

Tornadoes spawned by the storm ripped through parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, images on social media showed. At least nine homes were destroyed in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia’s NBC10 television station reported.

New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport said on Twitter it was experiencing “severe flooding”. It said it resumed “limited flight operations” close to midnight after all flight activity was suspended late on Wednesday.

New York City also experienced flooding, with social media images showing water gushing over subway platforms and trains.

Subway service was “extremely limited” due to the flooding, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said.

First responders evacuated people from the subway system, the acting chair and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Janno Lieber, said in a statement.

New York City’s mayor urged people to not go outside.

“Please stay off the streets tonight and let our first responders and emergency services get their work done. If you’re thinking of going outside, don’t. Stay off the subways. Stay off the roads. Don’t drive into these heavy waters. Stay inside”, he said on Twitter.

Source:

 Kanishka Singh via Reuters