Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Trees Grow Faster in Response to Climate Change

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has shown that trees in the Eastern USA are growing faster than they have in the past 225 years.

For 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland. His study shows that forest is growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That is the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet sprouting up over a year.

This growth rate is much faster than expected and small changes in their growth rate can have significant ramifications in weather patterns, nutrient cycles, climate change and biodiversity. Exactly how these systems will be affected remains to be studied.

Why the trees are growing faster is yet to be proven but the theories currently being investigated are increased temperature, a longer growing season and increased levels of atmospheric CO2.

During the past 22 years CO2 levels at SERC have risen 12%, the mean temperature has increased by nearly three-tenths of a degree and the growing season has lengthened by 7.8 days. The trees now have more CO2 and an extra week to put on weight. Parker suggests that a combination of these three factors has caused the forest's accelerated biomass gain.

The potentially good news is that faster growing trees will remove more CO2 from the atmosphere which will in turn help combat climate change.

You can read more about this story and research in Science Daily

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