Ghost forests is a general term used to describe stands of long-dead trees that have typically been submerged in ocean water. Sometimes these forests and generated by sudden catastrophic events such as earthquakes, but scientists are beginning to focus on the stands of trees slowly dying by encroaching salt water. As sea levels rise, saltwater is drifting into freshwater areas and creating marshland. There have also be incidences where storms bring in salt water, such as in the case of Hurricane Sandy, but it is not receding as quickly as the norm.
Scientists are now using these ghost forests as an indicator of climate change and they are becoming very prevalent along the eastern shore board, all the way down to Texas. the main focus on the growth of these ghost forests is the rate at which they are accelerating, which is currently very debated. Studies are being conducted that show the forests are spreading at an accelerated rate, but the findings are still inconclusive. According to one study, 100,000 acres along the Chesapeake Bay have been lost in the past 100 years, but photos show the rate of losses is currently four times higher than it was in the 1930’s. The transition from forest to marshland does come with a variety of pros and cons, including less habitat for migratory birds, but more habitat for saltwater fish. Tree species that are being affected include Atlantic white cedar, cypress, loblolly pines, and Eastern red cedar.
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Photo credit and information on how this phenomenon is affecting North Carolina’s coastline here.