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Trees Are Growing Faster Than Ever Before

Sep 17, 2014 06:10 PM EDT
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Recent research has revealed that trees across the world continue to grow significantly faster than they did before the 1960s, but what's the cause? Experts from Technische Universität München (TUM) provide evidence and speculation about this mysterious phenomenon in a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, details how the rate of tree growth, particularly in Central Europe, has increased by up to 70 percent over the last few decades.

These findings were based on an analysis of long term data from experimental forest plots that have been in observation since 1870. The plots of forest were designed to serve as a representation for average soil and climate conditions throughout Central Europe.

Interestingly, observations revealed that around 1960 the rate of forest growth began to shoot up, and by this current decade, beech and spruce trees in particular were growing nearly twice as fast as they had 50 years ago.

Nature World News previously reported how researchers expect that increasing carbon levels in the atmosphere may actually help trees grow, encouraging the growth of roots which can then sap up more nutrients from the ground. Great root demand has been known to traditionally limit overall tree growth, but with elevated carbon levels facilitating root growth, more energy can be expended on height.

And that's exactly what Hand Pretzsch, TUM Chair of Forest Growth and Yield, suspects is going on with these 600,000 individual tree samples.

However, this isn't exactly the happy consequence of elevated carbon levels that you may think it is. Despite the fact that trees are also a carbon sink, their ability to use and store harmful greenhouse gases has a hard cap that the world's emissions are handily exceeding.

Worse, Pretzsch explained that a change in tree growth may be forcing some local flora and fauna to change their behavior.

"The plant animal species that will be most affected are those living in habitats which depend on special phases and structures of forest development," he said in a statement. "These species may have to become more mobile to survive."

The team will reportedly continue to study this unexpected climate consequence in the years to come.

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