The old trees in China have been experiencing a growth spurt in recent years because of the warming climate. The growth is good in the short term, but how might it affect the forests in the long run?
Trees’ Growth Spurt
Climate change is affecting the planet in many different ways, and trees are no less affected than the other living creatures in the planet. In a new study, researchers describe just how the warming planet may be affecting trees and how the effects might be terrible for forests in the long run.
For the new study, researchers had a look at the tree rings from Dahurian larch in the northeastern forests of China and found that the trees grew more between 2005 and 2014 than the preceding 40 years. What’s more, they found that the older trees are more vulnerable to these effects than the younger trees. For instance, the 400-year-old trees grew more in that decade than in the 300 years before then.
This is rather unusual because Dahurian larch trees’ growth typically slows down at 150 years old, and practically stops by 300 years old.
According to the researchers, it is possible that it is the warmer soil temperature that is driving the growth spurt, as it lowers the depth of the permafrost layer. When this happens, the trees’ roots are able to grow deeper and therefore suck out more nutrients from the soil.
While the fast growth seems like a good thing for the trees, it could actually be disastrous for forests in the long run. This is because as the temperature continues to warm and the permafrost continues to melt, it will soon be unable to support the growth of the trees and possibly even cause the forest to eventually decay.
Since Dahurian larch is the only tree species that can survive the frigid permafrost plains of Russia, Mongolia, and northern China, losing the trees would completely change the ecosystem in the region. What’s more, this thawing is a problem that has been occurring in permafrost regions in different parts of the world.
“If the larch forest retreat in this region in the future, it is also not a good sign for the whole boreal forest,” said Xianliang Zhang of the Shenyang Agricultural University in China, lead author of the study.
The study is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.