What is a ghost forest?

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a maritime forest

A ghost forest on Capers Island, South Carolina.

As sea level rises, more and more saltwater encroaches on the
land. Along the world’s coasts and estuaries, invading
seawater advances and overtakes the fresh water that
deciduous trees rely upon for sustenance. The salty water
slowly poisons living trees, leaving a haunted ghost forest
of dead and dying timber. Still standing in or near brackish
water, the decaying trees of a ghost forest resemble giant
graying pillars that protrude into the air.

Researchers report that the rapid increase in ghost
forests represents a dramatic visual picture of environmental
changes along coastal plains located at or near sea level. In
many areas, rising sea levels combine with land sinking from the last ice age, as is currently happening in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Mississippi Delta region of Louisiana is
undergoing changes due to rising waters, the sinking of Earth’s crust, and sediments compacting along the
Mississippi River. With land and water constantly shifting,
woodlands die and are buried in open water. This is apparent
along North Carolina’s maritime forests, where only a glimpse of once
peaceful and verdant groves, now ghost forests, remain.

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