Like Humans, Forests Need a Balanced Diet, Too

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Like Humans, Forests Need a Balanced Diet, Too

The forest has many benefits not only to the human race but to animals and plants species across the globe / Photo by Subbotina via 123RF

 

Forests are very significant, not only to humans but to our whole ecosystem. Forests are home to millions of animal and plant species across the globe, have been a source of food for many decades, and have been used by humans for furniture, roof timbers, flooring, and more. Most importantly, forests have the ability to store carbon from the air, thus, counteracting climate change. They also help in regulating the water cycle and preventing soil erosion.

According to an article by the Convention on Biological Diversity, forest biological diversity refers to a broad term referring to all the life forms found within forested areas and the ecological roles they perform. It encompasses not only trees but also the thousands of animals, plants, and microorganisms that live in the forest areas.

However, we have seen how climate change and global warming have affected our forests for the past few decades. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, climate change can trigger the frequency and intensity of forest disturbances such as invasive species, insect outbreaks, wildfires, and storms. For instance, pine beetles damaged more than 650,000 acres of forest in Colorado last 2007. In southern Alaska and western Canada, spruce beetles have damaged more than 3.7 million acres of land. These insect outbreaks caused by climate change clearly defoliate, weaken, and kill trees.

Moreover, the further destruction of our forest biodiversity also leads to wildfires. More than eight million acres of forest in the United States caused more than $1.9 billion in damages and 15 deaths in 2011. Drought conditions and warm temperatures during the early summer contributed to this event. Also, natural disasters such as hurricanes, ice storms, and wind storms can cause damage to forests.

Balanced Diet for Our Forests

Humans, to maintain their overall well-being, have to eat a balanced diet consisting of nutritious foods, vegetables, and fruits. But just like us, our forests also need to have a balanced diet to survive. In a recent study conducted by an international team of scientists and a researcher from the West Virginia University, it was found that immense growth in our forests might happen as the trees deplete nitrogen in the soil over longer growing seasons.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, West Virginia's wildland, which considered is among the strongest forests across the globe, exhibited symptoms of declining health because of climate change. According to an article by Science Daily, associate professor of geography at WVU's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Brendan McNeil stated that, like humans, trees need to have more than one thing in their diets.

To do this, McNeil explained that humans should severely cut back or end altogether the use of fossil fuels to restore a balanced diet for forests. "There's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that's the raw material that trees need to convert to sugar, which they use to grow. What is profound is that as all the plants grow faster; they're slowing down climate change," he said. Along with other international scientists, McNeil suggested that most terrestrial ecosystems are seeing declining nitrogen isotopes in foliage on a global scale.

In another study conducted by the undergraduate and graduate students of the WVU Honors College, Edward Brzostek of the Department of Biology, and Nicolas Zegre of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the researchers assessed the responses of West Virginia forests to climate change. They aimed to find out how long these forests mitigate climate change and help humans prevent the outcomes of adapting to a more chaotic climate. "It's going to cost us a lot more if we do not change now. As described by the recent Fourth National Climate Assessment, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing our global climate in ways that are costly to our economy," McNeil said.

Conserving Forest Biodiversity

Apart from learning the balanced diet of forests, humans also need to take a step forward in conserving forest biodiversity. It would be best to conduct activities to improve significant habitat features. According to PennState Extension, people should retain some tall and short trees as well as a mix of species when harvesting timber, increase the number of potential snags, protect and retain important wildlife habitat features, and, of course, conserve native tree and plant communities.

Through these activities, we will not only save trees, but also thousands of animal and plant species across the globe. In fact, a study led by researchers from the Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research showed that ecosystem functions in forests such as conducting photosynthesis, fighting off pathogens, and protecting themselves against drought perform better with a higher level of biodiversity. In an interview, lead author Sophia Ratcliffe added, "Converting forest monocultures to multi-species forests should generally result in a higher delivery of ecosystem goods and services to humans."

 

Conserving the forest biodiversity does not only save the tress but also thousands of animals and plants species / Photo by NejroN via 123RF

 

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