Thirsty Trees Drink Carbon Dioxide Instead

The third year of university had come to end and I was interviewing for a summer job — it would be my first job in a forestry research lab. Prof. Terry Blake from University of Toronto's Faculty of Forestry liked my resume, but had a few questions to ask. "Is it possible to measure gas exchange of a forest?" Of course not, I replied without hesitation. Unless, of course, you build a giant dome around the trees. I guess I answered correctly, because I got the job.

We always have to be vigilant when reporting on news about carbon dioxide intake and forests. Some months ago, we posted with some speculation, that tree density may affect CO2 consumption by forests; a new study from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science claims that when faced with arid conditions, trees will absorb more carbon dioxide.Based in the Yatir Forest on Mount Hebron, the station is the only research facility that can measure greenhouse gases in the Middle East, reports today's Haaretz. There, they analyze isotopes in evaporated water and take measurements of soil aridity. As part of the international scientific project FluxNet to measure greenhouse gases, Prof. Dan Yakir was appointed to monitor the station in Israel. The data that they have collected appears to be unusual:


The trees at Yatir Forest grow just as fast as other trees growing in the region with twice the precipitation. A closer inspection revealed that the trees were compensating for the lack of water by making use of carbon dioxide.

The research, suggests Prof. Yatir may prove useful for helping curb desertification in arid climates while reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

It sounds hopeful, but we are still looking forward to seeing more corroborative research in this area. Blindly planting trees is also not necessarily good for the environment. Scientists have found in northern Israel that winter ponds have dried up, putting salamanders and other animals in peril — possible because of new forests planted nearby. The take home lesson is that nature is governed by a delicate balance of many factors, some of which we may not be able to measure. That makes it all the more important that we do our homework before any large environmental repairs go into effect. ::Haaretz

Tags: Carbon Dioxide | Israel

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