Forests play a big role in reducing the effects of the greenhouse gas emissions that humans are pumping into the atmosphere, because of trees' ability to absorb and store carbon. But even as they help to slow climate change, they've been punished by it.
In a disturbing new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Austrian scientists say that forests increasingly are endangered by problems such as massive wildfires, violent winds and outbreaks of destructive pests, which are intensifying as the result of climate change. While the study focused upon Europe, the same problems also threaten forests in North America and elsewhere.
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The authors write that the severity of large wildfires across the planet has increased over the past decade. A 2014 study published in Geophysical Research Letters reported that in the western United States, the number of big fires over 1,000 acres in size and the total amount of forest consumed by them has been increasing steadily over the past 30 years. According to a research survey published by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in 2013, the intensity of winter wind storms in northwestern Europe has increased over the past 60 years.