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Another Reason to Love Big, Old Trees

Another Reason to Love Big, Old Trees
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Published on Monday, January 20, 2014 by Common Dreams
Large, old trees are better at “sequestering” carbon than previously thought, in some cases absorbing as much CO2 as is in a smaller tree each year, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature.

“This finding contradicts the usual assumption that tree growth eventually declines as trees get older and bigger,” stated Nate Stephenson, lead author of the study and a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Rather, mass growth rate increases continuously.

“It also means that big, old trees are better at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere than has been commonly assumed,” Stephenson said, and they play an important role in mitigating human-caused CO2 emissions.

The researchers studied the growth rate measurements of over 670,000 representing over 400 tree species across six continents.

While the old trees do release carbon back into the atmosphere when they die, the “findings do suggest that while they are alive, large old trees play a disproportionately important role within a forest’s carbon dynamics. It is as if the star players on your favorite sports team were a bunch of 90-year-olds,” added study co-author Adrian Das, also with the USGS.

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One Response to "Another Reason to Love Big, Old Trees"

  1. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-50 alignnone photo of Ron Sadler
    Ron Sadler  January 21, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Timely article, but this is not new information.

    It used to be commonly accepted that old-growth stands were “biological graveyards”. As the article illustrates, that is simply not the case. I am aware of forest inventory data that demonstrated that even 800 year old Douglas-fir stands in our area were still putting on net growth.

    We need to remember that spotted owls, marbled murrelets, or any of the other hundreds of plants and animals associated with old-growth stands are only indicators of the real problem. The element that is truly endangered, is of critical importance, and must be maintained is the old-growth ecosystem itself.

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