Trees May Store More Carbon in Warmer Climate

tree sky photo

Photo: Ella's Dad, Flickr, CC
A 7-year study in central Massachusetts shows that trees growing in warmer temperaturest can absorb more carbon thanks to a change in the availability of nitrogen in the soil, but this isn't quite as good as it might first seem because this would only partially offset emissions from other sources, including releases from forest soil caused by the warmer climate.
tree sky photo

Photo: Aria Belli, Flickr, CC

A 7-year study at Harvard Forest in central Massachusetts looked at the impact of a 9-degree warmer climate on trees.

The study confirmed, as others have, that a warmer climate causes more rapid decomposition of the organic matter in soil, leading to an increase in carbon dioxide being released to the atmosphere.

But the study also showed, for the first time in a field experiment, that warmer temperatures stimulate the gain of carbon stored in trees as woody tissue, partially offsetting the soil carbon loss to the atmosphere. The carbon gains in trees, the scientists found, is due to more nitrogen being made available to the trees with warmer soil.

This happens because tree growth is often limited by the availability of inorganic nitrogen.

This faster growth and carbon sequestration is only a partial offset of the CO2 emitted by the soil, so we shouldn't get too excited about it. But if the effect is real, it should definitely be taken into account in climate models so we have a more accurate view of what might happen if we don't act to reduce the levels of atmospheric CO2.

Via Science Daily
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