As Forests Disappear, Examining the Mechanisms of Their Death

As Forests Disappear, Examining the Mechanisms of Their Death

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Everywhere, trees are dying. The boreal forests of Canada and Russia are being devoured by beetles. Drought-tolerant pines are disappearing in Greece. In North Africa, Atlas cedars are shriveling. Wet and dry tropical forests in Asia are collapsing. Australian eucalyptus forests are burning. The Amazon basin has just been hit by two severe droughts. And it’s predicted that trees in the American Southwest may be gone by the end of this century.

But as this astonishing transformation of landscapes continues, scientists have a confession to make: They do not fully understand how trees die. Certainly warmer temperatures, lack of water and insects play a role. But in each region hit by heat, drought or bugs, some trees remain standing. Why do some trees die while others survive? What happens deep inside a tree under stress? How slowly or quickly do different species die?

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