Trees: absorbing CO2 and cleaning up our mess

Ethan Gilsdorf for The New York Times

With all the talk about carbon levels and global warming, it can be unsettling to think about the effect we have on our planet. We can read about the positive feedback loop of glacial ice melting: as the ice melts, the area of ice recedes, bringing down with it the area that reflects light. Then, as the ice recedes, there is more dark blue ocean around to absorb heat from the sun and further speed up the process of melting the ice. One can’t help but feel helpless when confronted with this information. Yet this is only one example of many that show such positive feedback interactions that have anything but a positive effect on our planet.

There is good news on the horizon, though. One study published recently sites and incredibly positive positive-feedback interaction in regards to global warming. An ecologist by the name of Geoffrey Parker co-authored a paper that shows trees in the eastern United States are growing much faster than usual in response to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

By measuring the diameter of the tree trunks, the study has been observing growth increases of two to four times that of their normal growth rates. Apparently, the trees are picking up after us and our cars by absorbing as much CO2 as they can muster, which is welcome news.

While this is fantastic news, it’s certainly not perfect. This increased growth can eventually be limited by nutrient availability in the soil and water availability. With increased size comes increased appetite, and these trees run the risk of sucking the ground around them dry if their growth rates continue at this rate for extended lengths of time. For now, though, this is great news. Hopefully we will see similar trends popping up in other areas of the nation!

written by Alex Mojcher

Original article seen here


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