BY: RHIANN MOORE
Although ghost forests may possess a cool goth name, in reality they are far scarier than they sound. As a direct result of climate change, sea levels are rising at an increasingly dangerous rate and destroying once beautiful ecosystems. Suffering worst of all, because of the low elevation and flat lands, is the outer edge of the southern and mid-Atlantic US coastal plain.
Environmental News Network recently reported how the Withlacoochee Gulf Reserve, located on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida, has turned from a rich ecosystem to an indisputable ghost forest. The island once housed red cedar, live oaks and cabbage palms along with various species of birds, turtles and snakes. Tragically if one were to visit the island today they would find no more than a salt marsh habitat filled with barren trunks of dead trees and thigh-high grassy marshes.
This transformation is not limited to this island, it’s been seen in many different wetlands all over the southern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Not only is the appearance of it tragic, it is also a grim symbol of the devastations starting to occur because of climate change.
There can be no denial of the environmental devastation that has occurred in the 21st century. In the 20th century sea levels rose slowly at approximately 0.6 inches per decade; however, since 1992 the number has jumped up to 1.2 inches and appears to be rising at a drastic pace. The rise of the sea levels is greatly overwhelming these low-lying regions and pushing saltwater into freshwater-dependent ecosystems. This not only turns these ecosystems into dreaded ghost forests, it also leads to a reduction in the crop and timber yields that would typically come out of such wetlands.
While it all sounds very bleak (because it is) there are still many groups at work attempting to make a change. One group that focuses on Saltwater and the North Carolina Coast hopes to achieve change through education. They believe that recovery from the devastating rising sea levels hinges on an overall understanding of the human and natural processes that are influencing the salinization of surface waters and nearby lands. They hope to provide a comprehensive toolset that will focus on how information influences individual preferences and identifies paths by which outcomes can be used to enhance global sustainability. Essentially they hope to do what all environmentalists are attempting – to get everyone to care enough to work towards a goal together. Climate change is an undeniable issue in the world right now, but not enough people work to educate themselves and find how they can make a difference in making the world a better place.