CONTACT: Sharon Pickett, 301-365-9307, for the Sierra Club
DATELINE: ANNAPOLIS, Md., Sept. 9
The following was released today by the Sierra Club Appalachian Regional Office:
AIR POLLUTION IS KILLING OUR FORESTS
Where is the Proof? Why Should We Care?
From Maine to Alabama, trees are dying in unprecedented numbers -- with death and decline affecting virtually all species in every part of the Appalachian Mountains. Many of the high elevation hardwood trees, some more than 300 years old, have survived centuries of bugs, blights, and bad weather. But according to atmospheric and forest scientists, air pollution has left the trees in such a weakened state that previously minor threats are now proving lethal. Recent studies suggest that at current rates of loss, thousands of acres of Appalachian forests could die over the next decade.
The fossil fuel and forest products industries argue that the decline is the result of natural cyclical causes. But many scientists are now convinced that forest devastation is linked to decades of acid rain, deadly smog, excess nitrogen, and a thinning ozone layer. Unless these problems are addressed, scientists predict a wide range of ecological and economic consequences. For example:
-- Trees purify the air and generate oxygen. They provide a much needed source of clean air to help counteract growing pollution-related problems such as asthma and global warming.
-- Forests soak up rain and release it gradually in streams of fresh water. As forests die, we lose the source of clean water and are more vulnerable to floods.
-- When forests die, they no longer use up nitrogen in the soil. This excess nitrogen runs off into streams and lakes, acidifying the water and depleting fish stocks. -- Less availability of forest products results in higher prices at the lumber store.
-- Forests provide wildlife habitat, preserve biodiversity, and maintain a healthy ecosystem
-- Forests provide much needed recreation areas for a rapidly growing population
"There is no question that our forests are in dire trouble," said Dr. Harvard Ayers, co-editor of An Appalachian Tragedy, a new Sierra Club book that presents indisputable evidence of forest decline. "If we don't take action now, I am convinced that we will not be walking in the woods with our grandkids."
Aerial guided tours of affected forest areas can be arranged upon request.
AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS
Harvard Ayers, Ph.D., is professor of anthropology and sustainable development at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. He has conducted extensive research on forest decline in North Carolina and is co-editor of " An Appalachian Tragedy: Air Pollution and Tree Death in the Eastern Forests of North America." Dr. Ayers lectures widely on environmental issues with special expertise on the personal and political steps necessary to protect forests. He also serves as chair of Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit environmental organization.
Note: Book review copies available upon request.
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