Global Decline in Large Old Trees

By David B. Lindenmayer, William F. Laurance, and Jerry F. Franklin

(December 7, 2012) – Large old trees are among the biggest organisms on Earth. They are keystone structures in forests, woodlands, savannas, agricultural landscapes, and urban areas, playing unique ecological roles not provided by younger, smaller trees. However, populations of large old trees are rapidly declining in many parts of the world, with serious implications for ecosystem integrity and biodiversity.

According to New York Times author Jim Robbins, study findings warn that research to understand and stem the loss of these old trees is urgently needed. He reports, “It’s a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest,” said the study’s lead author, David Lindemayer, a professor at Australian National University and an expert in landscape ecology and forest management.

The research described the cause as a combination of factors, from a hotter, drier climate in many places to logging, land clearing, changes in fire prevention and management policies, insect attacks and diseases. The die-off of these 100-to-300-year-old trees raises concern, the researchers say, because they sustain biodiversity to a greater degree than many other components of the forest.

The authors of the study have called for a worldwide investigation of the loss of the trees, the protection of areas where the big trees have their best chance at survival, and new tree planting. Read the full article.

Related Resources
Global Decline in Large Old Trees
Mighty Old Trees Are Perishing Fast, Study Warns (NYT article)