Throughout the years, it is well known that during times of drought, forests and vegetation can bounce back easily. This may not be always the case since they may take longer to recuperate, a new report suggests.

The U.S. Forest Service released a report on the effects of drought on forests and rangelands in the country. The report provided a national assessment on the possible impact of drought brought about by global warming and the El Niño phenomenon on rangelands, forests and even vegetation.

"Our forests and rangelands are national treasures, and because they are threatened, we are threatened," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

"This report confirms what we are seeing, that every region of the country is impacted by the direct and indirect effects of drought conditions and volatile weather patterns," he added.

The United States has experienced some effects of drought. In various states like California, the warm and wet winter caused flooding and retreating of coastlines. Due to this weather inconsistency, scientists fear that the drought in some states may become worse and in some areas, they might experience extreme variations in precipitation.

The drought experienced across the globe is projected to increase risk of large-scale insect outbreaks and wildfires that may pose threat to humans as well. The warmer temperature accompanied by drought may lead to the death of vegetation including trees, crops and shrubs. This may impact the availability of food supply to many nations other than the United States.

Tom Vilsack further reported that about 60 million Americans depend much on drinking water that comes from about 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands. Aside from that, these lands support an estimated 200,000 jobs and contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year.

"Indirect effects of drought on forests can be widespread and devastating," the report titled, Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis, said [PDF].

The report, which was edited by Forest Service scientists and Duke University, delivers an important tool in the dissemination of information to the public as well as provide an insight on possible strategies to be implemented. About 77 scientists from various institutions collaborated and exerted efforts to study ways to curb the effects of drought on forests.

"Due to the uncertainty of future predictions of drought occurrence, we do not explicitly predict the impacts of future climate change on forest and rangeland ecosystems; however, observations from recent extended droughts in many regions of the United States may provide a realistic set of inferences that can be projected into the future," the report added.

Photo: Don DeBold | Flickr 

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