Carbon Emissions Cause Aspen Forest Explosion

quaking aspens photo

Image credit: .Larry Page/Flickr

Some trees eat up carbon dioxide like an unsupervised child eats candy. And, like said child, when these trees consume too much candy, they go crazy. Such is the case with aspen trees in the United States.

Researchers have discovered that the increased availability of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a direct result of anthropogenic emissions, has caused quaking aspen growth rates to increase 50 percent in the last 50 years.This dramatic increase has implications for North America's ability to act as a carbon sink. With more trees consuming more carbon, the potency of the continent's forests as a tool for slowing climate change could be greater than previously estimated.

Still, more aspen trees will not be the single answer to our climate change problems. One researcher explained that "we can't conclude that aspen forests are going to soak up excess carbon dioxide. This is going to plateau." Another of the report's authors added:

Aspens are already doing their best to mitigate our inputs...The existing trees are going to max out in a couple of decades.

Moreover, this explosion in growth could create a serious species imbalance in North American forests. "For all we know," one researcher explained, "this could have very serious effects on slower growing plants and their ability to persist."

As the quaking aspen, a fast growing foundation species, proliferates, it could push out slower-growing plants and threaten the forests' biodiversity.

The research demonstrates that in nature, everything has a cost.

Read more about forests:
New Study Sends European Carbon Sinks Down the Drain
Saving the Forest For the Climate...and Other Reasons
REDD Forest Protection Scheme Still Missing Key Safeguards as Barcelona Climate Talks Close
Forest of 100,000 Artificial Carbon-Capturing Trees Proposed in UK

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