Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Just Wrong

Today it is raining hard, so hard that neither Dog nor Baby Dog nor I got anything resembling a half-decent walk this morning. As it was, all three of us came back inside soaked to the skin. In my case, I was soaked despite a hat and a raincoat. Okay, so it’s not the rain that’s odd, even in mid-November. Today’s is a cold rain with a strong breeze, the kind of precipitation and day I can expect when it’s not quite cold enough for snow.

What’s odd is that the 70% of the leaves that are still on the trees are not coming down despite the rain and the wind. The leaves have virtually all turned a color that’s somewhere between deep orange and brown. They are no longer pretty colors of yellow or red or even orange. These are leaves that are dead and brown. But even after getting hit by drops of rain big enough to hurt my face when they struck and even after being buffeted by a breeze that strong enough to make hearing difficult, those leaves are still not falling off the trees. And given that it’s now mid-November and that these leaves should have all been carpeting the forest floor 15 days ago, what’s up with that?

I’ve never seen anything like this. Call it climate change, call it what you will, but this is simply wrong. This is the kind of thing that has a ripple affect that impacts probably twice the processes I can think of. Once the leaves do eventually drop, how much longer than normal will it take for them to decay? How will delayed decay impact next year’s forest growth, especially in the understory of the forest? Will it change what plants grow in the understory, favoring some species over the ones that typically make up the understory? If the plants are different, how does that impact the animals? How does the leafy canopy that’s currently overstaying its welcome affect the temperature in the forest today? Or later in the winter?

What I’m seeing now isn’t a little change. It’s profoundly different than normal here in this forest. It's past time to be doing something to stop it. It's past time to be pretending it will go away on its own. It might already be too late.


ChicagoLady said...

One tree off my balcony that was fiercely holding onto it's leaves, finally let most of them fall during yesterday's wind. I woke up this morning looking out on a nearly bare tree, that just yesterday morning had most it's leaves.

Carolyn H said...

Chicagolady: the same storm pushed through here last night, and a few leaves did come down--but only a few, I'm afraid.