Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Climate Change Blamed for Dying African Trees

Rainfall in the African Sahel declined more than anywhere else in the world in the period of recorded measurements, causing increased aridity, as evidenced by this dust storm in Senegal.

A lot of trees are dying in Africa’s Sahel region and new study says climate change caused by humans is to blame. What’s more, many tree species are also disappearing.

The study appears in the Journal of Arid Environments. Climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez led the research on six countries. At the time of the study, Gonzalez was a visiting scholar at the Center for Forestry at the University of California at Berkeley.

“We conducted our research in the African Sahel, an arid region on the edge of the Sahara where people depend on trees for survival. And the Sahel has experienced the most severe drought in the world in the modern rainfall measurement record,” he said.

Drying up
The research shows that during the 20th Century rainfall in the Sahel dropped between 20 and 30 percent.

“One in six trees died in the last half of the 20th Century and, second, one in five tree species disappeared locally. And then third, together these changes shifted vegetation zones southward toward areas of more rainfall,” he said.

Possible causes of the vegetation shift include declining rainfall, growing human population and decreasing soil fertility.

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