A Broken Sink

As climates change and rainfalls slow,

Our trees adapt the way they grow;

For every water-seeking root,

The greenery becomes dilute.

A forest we no longer know.

 

Now forced to reap the seeds we sow

Above the ground and deep below,

The outcome of forbidden fruit.

As climates change.

 

This biome that begins to show

Can’t hope to halt our carbon flow;

The damage is now absolute,

As ancient charms are all made mute.

The plug is pulled, now off we go.

As climates change.

“A forest we no longer know” (Photo Credit: Scott Wylie via Wikimedia Commons).

This is a Rondeau, inspired by recent research which has found that climate change-induced changes in rainfall and temperature are causing American forests to alter their appearance.

By looking at forest inventories of millions of trees in the Eastern part of the United States from the 1980s to the 2000s, researchers have found that reduced rainfall and rising temperatures have resulted in an influx of trees that are more tolerant to drought but which grow more slowly. This has resulted in the forests appearing markedly different in appearance than they did only a couple of decades ago.

As well altering the appearance of the forests, these changes have also affected the composition of the biomass (the accumulated mass, above and below ground, of roots, wood, bark, and leaves), as drought-tolerant tree species tend to allocate more carbon to fine roots and less to their leaves and woody parts. Unfortunately, these leaves and woody parts are the areas of the trees that act to capture more carbon from the atmosphere, meaning that the forests become a less effective sink for atmospheric carbon. In other words, as climate change affects the forests, so do the forests affect climate change. Whilst further research into this area is needed, this study has shown that these changes can take place across very short timescales of just a few decades.

An audio version of the poem can be heard here.

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