"New England's Stately Oaks and Hemlocks Give Way as the Region Warms"

"WEST TISBURY, Mass. – Spring did not come for the oaks of Martha's Vineyard.

For three years, the residents here watched a stunning outbreak of caterpillars that stripped an oak tree bare in a week, then wafted on gossamer threads to another. ...

Most trees recovered in the first year; fewer survived the second. But as the bugs struck again in late 2007, an accomplice drought hit the weakened trees, leaving the island now with swaths of stark, barren and lifeless branches.

"You just watched the trees and realized they weren't coming back," said Kathy Tackabury, 58, who lost seven oaks on her property.

Scientists see a fingerprint of climate change in the denuded branches, and a pattern of things to come. The effects of climate change, they say, are unlikely to be gradual or predictable. Warming winters will throw into confusion old orders of species, nurturing unexpected predators and weakening age-old relationships that helped form forests."

Doug Struck reports for The Daily Climate June 22, 2010.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010