Environment Climate changing our forests

Climate changing our forests

Forests grow on trees, don’t they? Maybe not.

Research from Murdoch University suggests our oldest renewable resource – wood – might be more vulnerable than we think.

Detailed study of jarrah forests in Western Australia shows the relentless ravages climate change – heatwaves, drought, insect pests, disease and fire – are stunting the growth of our most iconic timber species.

Many jarrah and marri forests now appear to be undergoing profound structural change, transforming from tall open stands to collections of short, multi-stemmed individuals, overshadowed by the dead trunks of their forebears.

Researcher Dr Joe Fontaine says the sections of forest studied do show some encouraging signs of recovery but currently appear unlikely ever to reach their former glory.

“We want resilient forests for many reasons, not least to continue to mitigate climate change,” he says.

“But the next die-off caused by heatwaves or fire could make the full recovery of some sections of forest unlikely – research is showing that such disturbances are occurring more frequently in our changing climate.”

The results suggest forests need more time than they are currently getting to recover from bushfires or planned burns.

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