Some Trees And Coral Are Climate Change Winners And Losers

spruce forestEuropean spruce are thriving in the warmer climate Image
Wonderlane via Wikimedia Commons

 

Some tree species in central Europe are growing faster as the climate changes, while the rising levels of acid it causes are endangering coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Europe’s spruce trees have started to sprint for growth. Beech trees, too, have begun to accelerate. German scientists report that trees in the European forests have increased their growth speeds by up to 77% since 1960.

The researchers can say this with confidence because in southern Germany they have access to the oldest network of measured experimental forest plots in the world. Since 1870, foresters and scientists have made 600,000 measurements of individual trees in Bavaria.

Hans Pretzsch and colleagues at the Technical University of Munich report in the journal Nature Communications that they selected beech and spruce for their comparisons because these are the dominant species in the forests of Central Europe. The deciduous beech trees were growing 77% faster, and the evergreen spruce by 32% .

The best explanation is that the trees are responding to rising average temperatures and a longer growing season: both consequences of climate change. It is also possible that higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are contributing to faster growth.

The research was carried out in forests that – 40 years ago – were thought to be in danger of dieback from atmospheric pollution: at the time, environmentalists were more worried about acid rain from factory and power station emissions than about global warming, and the German word Waldsterben entered the international vocabulary.

“Interestingly we observed that acid rain only had a temporary slowing effect on the growth of our experimental plots. Indeed, the input of pollutants started to fall off from the 1970s,” said Professor Pretzsch.

“Coral reefs are getting hammered and are likely to become a thing of the past unless we start running our economy as if the sea and sky matters to us, very soon”

Although the trees have both grown and aged faster, the forests as a whole have not greatly changed. The expectation is that foresters will be able to take trees for timber significantly faster. But other denizens of the forests may have to learn to adapt.

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

But if global warming is good for tree growth, it still isn’t doing much for the coral reefs. US scientists at work on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef report in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta  that coral growth rates have fallen 40% since the mid-1970s.

Jacob Silverman of the Carnegie Institution and Ken Caldeira and others studied a stretch of reef where measurements were first recorded 30 years ago, and made comparisons. They found that the rates of calcification, important in shell and skeletal growth, were 40% lower in 2008 and 2009 than during the same season in 1975 and 1976.

This time, the change could be put down not to warming, but to the change in water chemistry. As frequently reported by the Climate News Network, as atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in the oceans, it changes the pH value of the water, making it gradually more acidic, with sometimes serious consequences for some families of fish and shellfish.

“Coral reefs are getting hammered,” says Professor Caldeira. “Ocean acidification, global warming, coastal pollution and overfishing are all damaging coral reefs.

“Coral reefs have been around for millions of years but are likely to become a thing of the past unless we start running our economy as if the sea and sky matters to us, very soon.” – Climate News Network

About the Author

Tim Radford, freelance journalistTim Radford is a freelance journalist. He worked for The Guardian for 32 years, becoming (among other things) letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor. He won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He served on the UK committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He has lectured about science and the media in dozens of British and foreign cities. 

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolutionBook by this Author:

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution
by Tim Radford.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon. (Kindle book)

climate_books

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

How Supercharged Plants Could Slow Climate Change
by TED
Plants are amazing machines -- for millions of years, they've taken carbon dioxide out of the air and stored it…
Are Hungry Swarms Of Tiny Krill Behind Ocean Mixing?
Are Hungry Swarms Of Tiny Krill Behind Ocean Mixing?
by National Science Foundation
Engineers are investigating the impact of krill swarms on ocean mixing, and possibly global climate.
Methane: The Arctic's Hidden Climate Threat : Natalia Shakhova's Latest Paper
by Just Have a Think
A methane burst from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf could happen at any time and needs only a trigger.
Understanding The Human Side Of Climate Change Relocation
Understanding The Human Side Of Climate Change Relocation
by Sarah M. Munoz
Climate change is expected to have a striking impact on vulnerable communities, especially in coastal regions where…
On Contact: Climate Crisis with James Hansen
by RT America
Dr. James Hansen, former director of NASA's Goddard Institute and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth…
Fran Ulmer: After the Arctic Ice Melts
by World Affairs
Sea ice in the Arctic is getting thinner and thinner each year. As the ice melts away, shipping lanes will expand and…
Experts Warn of Climate Tipping Point as Scientists Find Permafrost Thawing 70 Years Ahead of Schedule
Experts Warn of Climate Tipping Point as Scientists Find Permafrost Thawing 70 Years Ahead of Schedule
by Eoin Higgins
Areas of the Canadian Arctic permafrost are thawing rapidly, 70 years ahead of when scientists previously believed, as…
Ice on Fire: HBO Official Trailer And Interviews
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
Ice on Fire is an outstanding documentary presented by Leonardo DiCaprio. It is equally as important as An Inconvenient…

LATEST ARTICLES

Why The Indian Ocean Is Spawning Strong And Deadly Tropical Cyclones
Why The Indian Ocean Is Spawning Strong And Deadly Tropical Cyclones
by Jennifer Fitchett
The Indian Ocean has made its mark on the global news cycle this year. In March, tropical cyclone Idai made headlines…
Biodiversity Helps Coral Reefs Thrive – And Could Be Part Of Strategies To Save Them
Biodiversity Helps Coral Reefs Thrive – And Could Be Part Of Strategies To Save Them
by Cody Clements
Coral reefs are home to so many species that they often are called “the rainforests of the seas.”
Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Basins 60 Percent Higher Than ...
Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Exploration Are Under-Reported
by Greg McDermid and Maria Strack
Wetlands in Canada’s boreal forest contain deep deposits of carbon-rich soils, made up of decomposed vegetation (peat)…
Household tissue is a climate issue
Household Tissue Is A Climate Issue
by Kieran Cooke
Trees are the source of much of our household tissue. And trees and soil store huge quantities of carbon to add to…
How To Bring The Wisdom Of The Public To Bear On The Climate Emergency
How To Bring The Wisdom Of The Public To Bear On The Climate Emergency
by Graham Smith
A new form of politics is gaining steam as a solution to the climate crisis. Six parliamentary committees in the UK are…
Utopia Isn't Just Idealistic Fantasy – It Inspires People To Change The World
Utopia Isn't Just Idealistic Fantasy – It Inspires People To Change The World
by Heather Alberro
Climate breakdown, mass extinctions, and extreme inequality threaten the earth’s rich tapestry of life and leave our…
US Military Is A Bigger Polluter Than As Many As 140 Countries
US Military Is A Bigger Polluter Than As Many As 140 Countries
by Benjamin Neimark, et al
The US military’s carbon bootprint is enormous. Like corporate supply chains, it relies upon an extensive global…
Solar future shines ever more brightly
Solar Future Shines Ever More Brightly
by Paul Brown
Progress in China, the US and elsewhere shows an increasingly positive solar future as fuel from the sun grows cheaper…