Scientists have found that recent widespread losses of delicate aspen trees across the western part of the United States due to a mysterious syndrome called “sudden aspen decline,” have led to disruptions in the surrounding ecosystems.
Lead researcher Dr. Erin Lehmer of Fort Lewis College in Colorado, USA studied wildlife in regions where the aspen trees were healthy versus areas affected by die offs. With the diminished forests unable to support as much diversity, certain animals such as deer mice have become more prevalent.
This in turn has increased the spread of the sin nombre virus that these animals carry. Sin nobre virus is sadly lethal to about one-third of the humans who fall ill by unknowingly inhaling fumes from infected mice urine or saliva.
According to Dr. Lehmer, the trees' decline has likely been caused by climate change, with a severe drought in the past two decades that could be making the forests more susceptible to various types of disease. Our appreciation, Dr. Lehmer and colleagues for highlighting the interdependence of environmental and human health through this worrying case.
May such research help us to make better choices to restore the health of all plants and animals on our planet. During an August 2008 videoconference in Canada, Supreme Master Ching Hai responded with concern and constructive insight to another forest decline situation in Canada that was also linked to climate change.