Friday, February 12, 2010

Forests are growing faster!

Ecologist Geoffrey Parker and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute postdoctoral fellow Sean McMahon have discovered that, on average, the forest is growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually (which is the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet sprouting up over a year). For more than twenty years, Parker has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland and after an estimated quarter of a million measurements, he believes he has found evidence that forests in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the past 225 years.

The paper, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on the driving forces accelorating the growth: Climate change i.e. higher temperatures, longer growing seasons and rising levels of atmospheric CO2. From ScienceDaily:

"During the past 22 years CO2 levels at SERC have risen 12%, the mean temperature has increased by nearly three-tenths of a degree and the growing season has lengthened by 7.8 days. The trees now have more CO2 and an extra week to put on weight. Parker and McMahon suggest that a combination of these three factors has caused the forest's accelerated biomass gain."

Hmph. Perhaps Mother Nature does have a way of self-regulatiing?


Neeks said...

Is this considered to be a good thing? Or is it what many consider to be global warming? Personally i think if this study is continued and looked back on many years from now we will see that its normal...IMHO

Deborah said...

I suppose we could say that it is a positive side effect of global warming?? Some say the increase in temperatures could prevent us from going into another ice age. And like you've suggested... this study covers such a small period of time in the scheme of the earth's history so... who really knows at this juncture, right?