There’s still a couple more days until the official first day of fall. But the aspens in Colorado aren’t waiting.
Some of the trees clustered along the Peak to Peak Highway have already changed a brilliant gold. Others remain a verdant green — but that won’t last for long.
Foresters are guessing that peak-leaf viewing may fall next weekend or the first few days of October.
On Tuesday — after this sunny, warm weekend has given way to a cold front predicted to sweep into Boulder County on Sunday night — the sun will shine directly on the Equator, and fall will officially begin.
And on the heels of autumn’s wintry entrance (the National Weather Service is forecasting a chance of snow in the high country both Sunday and Monday nights) comes the golden glow of Colorado’s changing aspen leaves.
“I usually tell people the third week in September will be the peak,” said Bob Sturtevant, a forestry specialist with the Colorado State University Extension Service. “And it seems to be right on schedule.”
Foresters are still puzzling over why aspens in the Rocky Mountains are dying, a phenomenon that scientists are calling “sudden aspen decline,” or SAD.
But whatever the reason — many are blaming the added stresses of climate change — the situation doesn’t look good.
In Colorado, the number of acres with sick aspens — which drop their leaves, are ravaged by insects and can’t reproduce — has quadrupled between 2006 and 2008 to more than 850 acres, according to an article published by Reuters.
“What we think will happen is that aspen will disappear in some areas and there will not be anything we can do about it,” said SAD expert Wayne Shepperd of Colorado State University.
A study by scientists with the federal Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho presented just such a scenario. It predicted the near total disappearance of aspen in the Rocky Mountain region by 2090.
The research, to be published in Forest Ecology and Management, links ailing aspen to global climate change and concludes that up to 41 percent of Western forests would be unable to support aspen by 2030. That figure would rise to 75 percent by 2060 and as much as 94 percent in 2090.
Read the full story at www.reuters.com, check out information from the U.S. Forest Service about sudden aspen decline, or learn about what Boulder County is doing to preserve aspen stands after the jump. Read more