In what one researcher calls a "very, very disturbing trend," new research finds that the planet's oldest trees have started dying at 10 times the normal rate, a change that could greatly damage the planet's ecosystems and biodiversity. Researchers blame logging, development, drought, and climate change for the decline of 100- to 300-year-old trees, reports AFP, a new reality found at all latitudes on every continent that is home to them.
"Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers, and cetaceans have declined drastically in many parts of the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperiled," said the study's lead author. Among the trees at risk: mountain ash in Australia, pine trees in America, California redwoods, and baobabs in Tanzania. And the decline endangers more than just the woods, as up to 30% of birds and animals in some areas find shelter in those large trees. "Their loss could mean extinction for such creatures," says the researcher. (Read more trees stories.)