The team used historical data from the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program to compare how the wood volume of certain forest groups has changed over the past several decades.
The study estimates that between 1970 and 2015 there was a significant increase in the volume of wood in trees, which correlates with a net increase in carbon emissions.
High carbon levels have likely led to the equivalent of additional tree ring growth for each tree in the 10 different temperate forest groups across the United States, suggesting that trees help protect the ecosystem from the Earth from the impacts of global warming thanks to their rapid growth. , the researchers said.
The phenomenon is known as “carbon fertilization”, whereby an influx of carbon dioxide increases the rate of photosynthesis in a plant, stimulating its growth.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mixes almost evenly, so every place on Earth has nearly the same amount, the researchers said, suggesting that other forests and woodlands would have experienced a similar increase in biomass. .
Significant increase in volume
The team found that trunk volume increased by 12.3% in 75-year-old forests and 28.8% in 25-year-old forests.
Some European studies have recorded higher tree heights over time, which researchers believe may be due to carbon fertilization.
Experts had previously speculated that the amount of carbon dioxide that trees would be able to absorb would be limited by a lack of other elements necessary for photosynthesis such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
However, the researchers said that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, a lack of carbon dioxide appears to be the most important limiting factor in tree growth.
The team hopes to repeat the research using global data, but said they hope it will show policymakers and others the value of trees in mitigating climate change.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.