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Global climate change

Forests actually storing less carbon as planet continues to warm

By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
5/15/2019, 12:20:22 PM

As expected, tree growth is accelerating, as the Earth continues to warm due to the impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, new research from the University of Cambridge (UK) has determined that the carbon residence time, or the length of time that trees store carbon, will diminish.

The reason for this is that faster-growing trees tend to die earlier than slower-growing trees. When these faster-growing trees die, the carbon that they stored is returned to the carbon cycle, according to the University of Cambridge report.

During photosynthesis, trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide (primary greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and use it to build new cells, which in turn leads to growth.


In order to conduct this study, the researchers sampled over 1,700 tree rings from living and dead mountain pines and larch trees from Spain and Russia.

The research team determined that harsh, cold conditions cause tree growth to slow, but they also make trees stronger, so that they can live to a very old age. On the other hand, trees growing faster during their first 25 years die much sooner than their slow-growing relatives. This negative relationship remained statistically significant for samples from both living and dead trees in both regions.


Key excerpt from the report..............

“As the planet warms, it causes plants to grow faster, so the thinking is that planting more trees will lead to more carbon getting removed from the atmosphere,” said Professor Ulf Buntgen from Cambridge’s Department of Geography, the study’s lead author. “But that’s only half of the story. The other half is one that hasn’t been considered: that these fast-growing trees are holding carbon for shorter periods of time.”

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Global climate change