Courtesy of The Australian National University
Ecosystems worldwide are in danger of losing large, old trees forever, without more research and policy changes to better protect them, warns a new study published in Science.
Boabab Tree, Tanzania
Lead author of the paper, Professor David Lindenmayer from the Fenner School of Environment and Society in the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, says the threats these trees face are manifold and populations around the world are rapidly declining.
“Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers, and cetaceans have declined drastically in many parts of the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperiled,” said Professor Lindenmayer.
“Targeted research is urgently needed to better understand the key threats to their existence and to devise strategies to counter them. Without such initiatives, these iconic organisms and the many species dependent on them could be greatly diminished or lost altogether.”
The study outlines the unique ecological roles large old trees play, roles that younger and smaller tress cannot fulfill.
“Large old trees in Mountain Ash forests of mainland Australia, for example, provide irreplaceable shelter and nesting sites for over 40 species, therefore their decline could have serious implications for ecosystem integrity and biodiversity,” said Professor Lindenmayer.
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Another Great Extinction occurs right before our eyes. Those wretched fired in Australia, and drying out of soils around the world impact us for years ahead.
The Cedars of Lebanon: After 4,500 years of human exploitation, the country's heavily forested hills has declined from nearly 100 per cent to just 5 per cent. This small forest of Cedar trees in the mountains of northern Lebanon are the last remaining trees from the extensive forests of the Cedars of Lebanon that thrived in this area during ancient times. In fact, these cedars are mentioned in the Bible over 70 times. TheAncient Egyptians used its resin in mummification and King Solomon used the cedar trees in the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Easter Island Forests: The Easter Island of ancient times supported a sub-tropical forest complete with the tall Easter Island Palm, a tree suitable for building homes, canoes, and latticing necessary for the construction of statues. With the vegetation of the island, natives had fuelwood and the resources to make rope. With their sea-worthy canoes, Easter Islanders lived off a steady diet of porpoise. A complex social structure developed complete with a centralized government and religious priests. Around 1400 the Easter Island palm became extinct due to over harvesting. Its capability to reproduce has become severely limited by the proliferation of rats, introduced by the islanders when they first arrived, which ate its seeds. In the years after the disappearance of the palm, ancient garbage piles reveal that porpoise bones declined sharply. The islanders, no longer with the palm wood needed for canoe building, could no longer make journeys out to sea. Consequently, the consumption of land birds, migratory birds, and mollusks increased. Soon land birds went extinct and migratory bird numbers were severely reduced, thus spelling an end for Easter Island's forests. Already under intense pressure by the human population for firewood and building material, the forests lost their animal pollinators and seed dispersers with the disappearance of the birds. The culture fell into chaos.