The Stream, January 18: Global Forest Growth Limited by Water Availability, Not Warmer Temperatures, Study Says

The Global Rundown

A new study finds that limited water resources are responsible for declines in global forest growth. Experts say California’s cycle of prolonged drought, followed by heavy rains, is worsening wildfire risk. Arizona lawmakers review draft legislation as the deadline looms for a Colorado River drought contingency plan. An attack in northern Mali, where water and pasture are frequently contested, leaves more than 30 people dead. Australia’s Green party hopes to establish a royal commission to evaluate mismanagement of the Murray-Darling Basin in the wake of recent fish kills.

“We have spent $13bn on the Murray-Darling Basin plan, yet the river system is in collapse. This plan was put in place to fix the river, and cotton, corruption and climate change is killing it.” –Sarah Hanson-Young, the environment and water spokeswoman for Australia’s Green party, in response to recent fish kills along the river system. Next month, the Greens plan to introduce legislation calling for a royal commission into the mismanagement of the Basin. The Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations have expressed support for the investigation, but the legislation will likely receive a mixed response from Australia’s other political parties. The Guardian

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By The Numbers

875,000 acres Land burned by wildfires in California in 2018, more than three times the five-year average. The fires are driven by years of drought in the state, but experts say occasional heavy rainfall is also raising fire risks. The rainfall helps grass and brush grow, but is not enough to satiate the plants long-term, leaving them to wilt and fuel fires during the next dry spell. Bloomberg

34 Number of Tuareg people who were killed by gunmen in northern Mali. The attack is one of many disputes between the nomadic Tuareg and Fulani herders in the last year. Experts say the ethnic conflicts are exacerbated by shortages of water and pasture in the region. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

An international team of scientists mapped global tree growth throughout the 20th century and found that shortages of water, not hotter temperatures, had the greatest impact on forest growth in a changing climate. The study compared tree ring data from 1930-1960 to data from 1960-1990, and utilized measurements from nearly 3,000 sites across the globe. Science Daily

On The Radar

Arizona lawmakers had the opportunity to view draft legislation related to the Colorado River drought contingency plan this week. Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation gave the seven Colorado River Basin states a deadline of January 31 for completing a plan. Arizona and California have yet to agree to the multi-state plan. Arizona Capitol Times

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