Jun 26, 2019 | Updated: 09:24 AM EDT

Climate Change Causes Growth Spurt Among Old Trees

Jun 02, 2019 11:49 PM EDT

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Growing Trees
(Photo : Joey Kyber)

Whenever climate change is the topic, people never talk about the good news and the benefit it brings. From mass extinction of species to all the natural disasters the comes with climate change, its effects on the environment and to life on Earth, in general, is simply worrisome.

However, there might be an area in the ecosystem that may tip the scales a little in favor of climate change.

Surprisingly, climate change is practical for the growth of trees. A new study reveals that the Dahurian larch, a type of tree that grows in the forests, north of China, grew faster from 2005 to 2014 than the years before that. This by far is the biggest growth spurt ever recorded.

For the study, the scientists looked into the growth rings around tree trunks which revealed that the oldest of trees have exhibited the most growth spurts. Trees that are already 400 years old grew as much as 80% faster in the said ten years than they did in the last 300 years. On the other hand, trees that are between 250 to 300 years old grew about 35% faster during the said time frame than they did before the 10-year period.

The increase in the speed of growth of these trees is attributed to the warmer climate that also increased the temperatures of the soil. Such warming of soil temperatures is good for the trees when you look at it from a short-term perspective.

However, if you look at the ecology of the forest in the long run, faster growth in trees may not be beneficial. The depth of the layer of permafrost is often lowered to allow the tree roots to expand and suck in more nutrients from the soil to fuel their rapid growth.

However, if such speed continues, the permafrost below the trees may eventually degrade causing them the inability to support the growth of trees. Experts fear that this is not just about trees, but such a scenario could greatly affect the entire ecosystem in the forest.

"The disappearance of the larch will largely affect the ecosystem," said Xianliang Zhang, lead author of the study and an expert ecologist from the Shenyang Agricultural University

Zhang and his team explained that the older trees grow faster because their root system is more developed. These older trees can then get more nutrients from the soil than the other much younger trees.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.

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