16 December 2013
Examining a long-lived forest, researchers have found that Black Spruce trees, which dominate the northern forests of North America, succumb about five years after being weakened by environmental stresses. Without rejuvenating fire, the dead trees aren’t being replaced by new ones. The result will help researchers better understand how climate change affects the health of forests, and how forests affect the severity of climate change. The study also suggests trees might be storing more carbon than currently estimated.
“The take away from this is that a combination of short and long term processes shape forests,” said lead author Ben Bond-Lamberty of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Scientists have paid a lot of attention to potential climate change signals in forests — like them growing faster than expected due to an overabundance of carbon dioxide, or slower due to climate change-induced extreme temperatures. But that signal is hard to see because of past disturbances that the forests are recovering from.”
Appearing in the journal Global Change Biology, the study showed that tree growth slows down as forests age, as expected. The study also allowed the researchers to examine tree mortality — information needed to figure out how much carbon dioxide trees can store — to improve climate models.
Read more from the Almagest here.