Twilght Swim by Jim Wiegand

Wildlife biologist and  wind-farm watchdog Jim Wiegand recently took exception to remarks made in a November 11, 2010 article on climate change.

While there are still some ‘skeptics’ who try to convince the general public that climate change findings are misinformation or signs of an Eco-political conspiracy, a vast majority of researchers and scientists working in the field conclude that the facts are undeniable:  Humans are causing substantial and incontrovertible changes to the life-sustaining structure of the Earth’s climate. His letter to the Editor is below:

Editor,  I have some comments about the article ” Climate change shocks scientists”. Both the article and the study used for the story are misleading because climate change is considered the main reason for the change to the flora in areas of study.  Even the title, ” Ecological contingency in the effects of climatic warming on forest herb communities” is misleading.

I read the study and I have to say it is completely flawed because it does not take into consideration the true impact of deforestation upon climate and the relationship between a forest canopy, humidity levels, and ground temperature. The study boldly states  “that regardless of land-use history, we found multiple herb community changes consistent with an effectively drier climate.”   There is much more to this statement than what was revealed in the study and land use has a lot to do with their findings.

In reality what the researchers  witnessed were the impacts of a forests that are drying out at a quicker rate. The fact is, ground temperatures rise and soils dry out quicker in all areas of commercial logging. I have witnessed this phenomena many times during my years of spent in the forests of the intermountain region.

The areas referred to in this study once had vegetation canopies of 100-200 feet high. Looking back to the 1940’s,  the forests were much taller and had more complex levels of growth.  A far different forest exists today than those currently seen in the Study areas the scientists looked at. Where once stood dense canopies dominated by mature Douglas fir, White Fir, Yellow Pine and Cedar trees now stands a young canopy of trees and vegetation 50-60 feet tall. These smaller trees and plant communities do not insulate the forest floor nearly as well from the sun and wind as the 100-200 feet tall dense canopy that once stood in the region.

There was a time when loggers could only could only process 2- 3 trees a day because they were so large. These trees were hundreds of years old. Today these same loggers would have to cut dozens of “baby trees” to get the same amount of board feet. Over the decades, this is what has happened to our forests.

A much more accurate title for the study and the article would have been “Scientists Find Higher Temperatures and Dryer Conditions Decades After Old Growth Logging”.  Jim Wiegand

For more insight into how mature forests influence climate, as opposed to new growth forests and those thinned by development or clearcut by loggers, please read about forest ecology here.

For links to the actual articles in references, please follow the links below.