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Contribution from Bill Laurance: ‘Are the World’s Biggest Trees in Trouble?'

  • February, 2012

Big trees are incredibly important for forests- they store much of their carbon, are competitively and reproductively dominant, and form the breadbaskets and shelters for a forest's animal life. They are also suffering a range of modern maladies. Writing recently in New Scientist, William Laurance, a Research Professor at James Cook University  (Cairns, Australia), argues that big trees are declining trhoughout the world. They have been greatly reduced in number by land-clearing and logging, but beyond this they are vulnerable to habitat fragmentation, droughts, storms, aggressive weeds, altered fire regimes, a collapse of native seed dispersers, and exotic pathogens and pests. These environmental insults can affect big trees at every stage of their life cycle- from seeds to senescence.

Big trees are adapted for longevity and stability- commodities that are in shrt supply in our rapidly changing modern world. Whether hit by subtle afflictions or the ecological equivalent of a sledgehammer blow, Laurance argues, big trees are declinig across much of the world.

 

Reference: Laurance, W. F. 2012. How the mighty are fallen. new Scientist, 28 January, pp 39-41