Over the past few months, scientists have continued to publish research outlining the destruction climate change may wreak soon. What could happen to Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, for example, is kind of heartbreaking. Now, in an even darker report, scientists say climate change is causing a rise in “ghost forests” along the northeast coast of the US. And yes, they look super creepy.
Earther picked up on the new report, which researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey recently released. The US Department of Agriculture hired on the researchers to surmise “the current state of knowledge” concerning how Northeastern US coastal forests are responding to impacts from climate change.
Upon inspection—which consisted of analyzing scientific literature, interviewing forestry and biology experts, and convening relevant scientists—the researchers found that climate change is causing the ocean to eat into the East Coast; flooding coastal forest land from Virginia up to Massachusetts, and threatening other areas.
As the ocean water floods into these forests, it displaces native fresh water, which deciduous trees rely upon for sustenance. The salt water subsequently poisons the living trees, leaving a “ghost forest” of dead and dying timber in its wake. To make the scene even more eery, the barren trees stick around; becoming purgatory versions of their former selves.
The affected forests “have a ghostly, spectral character,” Richard Lathrop Jr., who directs Rutgers University’s Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis and was a co-author of the new research, wrote in an email to Earther. “This is happening up and down the East and Gulf Coasts, especially in coastal areas where there is low lying, gently sloping land adjacent [to] coastal bays,” Lathrop added.
Along with the encroaching salt water, the forests also face storm surges, which too leave behind an inundation of salt. Which, like the ocean water, not only kills current trees, but leaves the forests inhospitable for future ones.
The researchers say there are possible ways to mitigate the rise of these ghost forests, however. If the US more cautiously plans how coastal land is used, for example, that could cut down on ghost forests. Expanding the forests inland, likewise, could help them to survive the onslaught of saltwater. Which all sounds great, because the fewer parts of the US that look like the backdrop for an episode of True Detective, the better.