Saturday, May 5, 2012

Occupy Mount Mitchell

Today is encouraging people all over the world to organize actions, large and small, to draw attention to the effects of climate change. A big part of it is Connect the Dots, which is collecting pictures (with homemade dot-shaped signs) designed to call attention to places where climate change is visible or might be very soon. Tammy and I were going to attend an event in Asheville, but it looked like it might get rained out. So we waited for the weather to break and then went and occupied Mount Mitchell for a little bit.

Here's what we learned in the process: The fraser firs that grow at the top of the Black Mountains can't thrive much below 6,000 feet in the current climate. If temperatures go up, they can't migrate to higher altitudes, because the mountains just aren't high enough. The firs have already sustained decades of damage from acid rain and insect infestation. A small increase in temperature could wipe out the firs and their plant community in these mountains.

Mitchell's distressed ecosystem has been the subject of so many studies that some biologists call it an "icon of degradation."

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