A forest of ancient trees, poisoned by rising seas

Bear Swamp is a forest of 400-and 500-year-old black gums, some of the oldest trees in eastern North America, along the Delaware Bay in south-eastern New Jersey. The trees have begun to die. The cause is the rising sea, which is making the groundwater at the base of the forest saltier. The trees are doomed. Much of the Glades Wildlife Refuge, which contains the forest, eventually will be under water.

Though I live only 89 km away, I'd never seen the forest nor had I heard of its old-growth trees until I read about them recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer. This knowledge was enough to make me grieve for the world that is vanishing before us. Earth is rapidly shedding life and the systems that sustain it. We know this but we don't seem to be able to face it, for ours is an age of loss disguised as plenty.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 30, 2018, with the headline 'A forest of ancient trees, poisoned by rising seas'. Print Edition | Subscribe