Entries for month: January 2012

Dying Aspens Bring Climate Change Home

Few living things are as emblematic of the Rocky Mountain West as quaking Aspen trees. Rustling in fresh green waves, their fluttering leaves gently herald the freshness of a mountain morning. Ablaze in gold and crimson in the fall, their bold expanses proclaim the end of summer. Tall and sturdy, their knobby black and white posts provide quiet guidance to backcountry skiers in a white world.
But Aspen trees are in trouble. Nearly one in every five Colorado aspen trees has died off in recent years. The phenomenon even has a name: Sudden Aspen Decline or SAD. It’s sad indeed and new research is linking the deaths to climate change.
It’s easy to think that climate change is “out there’’ in time or “over there’’ in space. Our tendencies are to focus on more immediate concerns like doing a job or paying the bills.
But the effects are creeping into our lives and onto our doorsteps. Driving along the Interstate 70 corridor between metro Denver and the ski areas, you can’t miss the vast hillsides of grey dead Lodgepole Pines. The mountain pine beetles that have ravaged many forests have also been linked to climate change. Every time I drive through, I fear the spark that could create a conflagration.
And now the aspens are dying.