In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2011
Regional Report

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A world without trees is unimaginable.

The Earth Abides

Have you noticed all the dead and dying trees recently? As I drive down Highway 280 toward Palo Alto, I see ancient California live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) that are being decimated by sudden oak death disease. Two massive oaks in particular make me feel so sad. They have lived together on top of a hill, branches entwined like lovers, for many years, and now one of the partners is dead and crumbling. Evergreens by the thousands are succumbing to the pine bark beetle. If you don't believe me, take the 17 mile drive between Monterey and Carmel. It's a frightening sight to see mile after mile of dead Monterey pines. On my recent trip to North Carolina I noticed that the hardwood forests there are being particularly hard hit. Skeletons of dead trees stand naked among the living as a testimony to the sad fate that is contributing to the slow demise of our beautiful planet.

Studies have shown that tree deaths have more than doubled during the past 30 years. Scientific evidence proves that trees at all elevations and of all species are dying at this alarming rate. The frightening phenomena is not limited to the United States. The famous plane trees that arch gracefully over the 150-mile Canal Du Midi in France are dying by the thousands from an untreatable fungal disease. Not to mention the deliberate destruction of the tropical rain forests in Brazil and Southeast Asia.

The Causes
The cause of this massive die-off is thought to be a combination of global warming and nanoparticles of heavy metals such as aluminum, barium, strontium, and titanium that are finding their way into water, soil, and air. In addition, periods of severe drought and heat, as seen this past summer, contribute to the weakening and stress of trees. Whereas a healthy tree would normally be able to fight off insect, fungal, and viral pathogens, a tree that is stressed has little or no chance of survival. The combination of higher than normal temperatures, drought stress, insect infestations out of sync from natural cycles, and chemical toxins in the environment are causing trees all around the globe to fail. It is as if a worldwide epidemic has invaded nature.

The Problem is Twofold
Normally, all green living things, including trees, take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. They are the lungs of our beautiful world and create the very air we breathe. There would be no life as we know it without these biological oxygen-making machines. However, when a tree dies, instead of creating the oxygen that we all need to live, it produces carbon dioxide as it decomposes. Scientists believe that a massive tree die-off could exacerbate a worsening cycle of global warming, which would in turn create more tree deaths in a vicious, never-ending cycle.

The Solution?
All we can do to save the trees is for each of us to act locally and think globally. We should all do our part in cutting down the causes of global warming. Take public transportation whenever possible, recycle, reuse and repurpose, buy organic from reputable green companies. In other words; do your part to be part of the solution, not part of the cause. The earth will survive in spite of us, changed perhaps from what we know, but life will endure.


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