Forget Ghost Towns, Sections of U.S. East Coast Could Turn into Ghost Forests

by Shelby Scott
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Climate change has resulted in increased temperatures, drought, wildfires, tropical storms, and more. However, one interesting, and haunting effect of climate change we may not hear of are our nation’s ghost forests.

Ghost towns are definitely interesting as they pertain to our developmental past and explore various traces of regional history. However, a phenomenon termed “ghost forests” serves as a spooky sign that climate change is impending. They further signify humans need to work quickly to combat it.

Along the Eastern shores of the U.S., especially in states such as New Jersey and North Carolina, which directly border Atlantic shorelines, ghost forests have become a much more common sight. The ghost forests result from the destruction of our coastal white cedar trees. The cedars typically thrive in wetlands, often lying in majorly swampy regions. While we may see the white trees and, due to the name “White Cedar,” assume this is normal, this is not the case.

The white cedar tree are typically lush green. They additionally serve as a kind of natural barrier to our nation’s coastal residential and commercial areas. Yahoo! reported that the Atlantic white cedar forests function as NJ’s first line of defense. However, climate change has resulted in the destruction of many of these wetland forests. Now, the trees have gone from a vibrant bright green to a haunting pale white, signifying their deaths.

White Cedar Ghost Forests Signify Impending Climatic Doom

The coastal forests continue to diminish as climate change increases. Overall, this puts many East Coast states at risk ahead of rising sea levels, tropical storms, and other natural disasters. The trees see their deaths as they become overrun with saltwater due to rising sea levels and superstorms.

University of Virginia and Duke University researchers studying ecosystems stated that if the nation’s coastal white cedar forests continue to succumb to climate change, the wetlands will reach the “point of no return within the century.”

Further, NJ’s state commissioner of environmental protection, Shawn LaTourette, said, “If we pay close attention to our environment, we often see that it sends us signals.” He explained, stating the ghostly now-white trees “signal…[the] risk that we all face from saltwater intrusion from storm surge.” Should the ghost forests continue to appear and water levels continue to rise, the news outlet said saltwater will eventually eradicate farm fields, homes, drinking water, and businesses.

In addition to states like NC and NJ, other threatened coastal states include Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. However, the ghost forests continue to appear internationally as well. The fact may be attributed that certain regions don’t have access to such research as we do in the U.S. These countries include Brazil, Ukraine, and Mozambique to name a few.

While science and nature alike continue to prove the devastating effects of climate change, worsening natural conditions signify that humans need to (quickly) reassess. LaTourette further stated, “I think every community, every resident, every business has to ask itself hard questions about whether it is positioned to confront the ravages of climate change.”

Outsider.com