Could Colorado's Aspen Trees Die Off by 2090?

September 9 2009, 1:43 PM

aspensCBS' Early Show recently pointed out that although Colorado is no New England when it comes to the changing fall colors, our state puts on a "brilliant" show nonetheless. Let's hope that remains the case this year. As Reuters reports, the American West, including Colorado, is losing its autumn colors in a die-off that's perplexing some researchers, although it's believed to be linked to climate change and the accompanying drought. The number of acres affected by "SAD," or "sudden aspen decline," in Colorado quadrupled from 2006 to 2008, to more than 850 square miles---a situation that also extends into Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. Some researchers suggest the West may lose nearly all the aspen along the Rocky Mountains by the end of 2090. Aside from how SAD could hurt mountain tourism, it may also affect businesses like Delta Timber Company in the SAD-struck Southwest, where aspen are used to produce paneling for walls and ceilings. "We're struggling right now with the same thing all sawmills are facing because of the housing crunch," says owner Eric Sorenson. "Now with the trees dying, it's going to create more challenges." As for this year, in the area around the town of Aspen, the aspen trees are just starting to turn color. In fact, some have already dropped their leaves, according to the Aspen Times, which quotes the city's forester as blaming the wet spring, an overactive fungus, and bugs for the phenomenon.