Plant trees, not carbon laws

From the University of Michigan

U-M ecologist: Future forests may soak up more carbon dioxide than previously believed

36944_web[1]

An aerial view of the 38-acre experimental forest in Wisconsin where U-M researchers and their colleagues continuously exposed birch, aspen and maple trees to elevated levels of carbon dioxide and ozone gas from 1997 through 2008. Credit: David Karnosky, Michigan Technological University

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—North American forests appear to have a greater capacity to soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas than researchers had previously anticipated.

As a result, they could help slow the pace of human-caused climate warming more than most scientists had thought, a U-M ecologist and his colleagues have concluded.

The results of a 12-year study at an experimental forest in northeastern Wisconsin challenge several long-held assumptions about how future forests will respond to the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide blamed for human-caused climate change, said University of Michigan microbial ecologist Donald Zak, lead author of a paper published online this week in Ecology Letters.

“Some of the initial assumptions about ecosystem response are not correct and will have to be revised,” said Zak, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

To simulate atmospheric conditions expected in the latter half of this century, Zak and his colleagues continuously pumped extra carbon dioxide into the canopies of trembling aspen, paper birch and sugar maple trees at a 38-acre experimental forest in Rhinelander, Wis., from 1997 to 2008.

Some of the trees were also bathed in elevated levels of ground-level ozone, the primary constituent in smog, to simulate the increasingly polluted air of the future. Both parts of the federally funded experiment—the carbon dioxide and the ozone treatments—produced unexpected results.

In addition to trapping heat, carbon dioxide is known to have a fertilizing effect on trees and other plants, making them grow faster than they normally would. Climate researchers and ecosystem modelers assume that in coming decades, carbon dioxide’s fertilizing effect will temporarily boost the growth rate of northern temperate forests.

Previous studies have concluded that this growth spurt would be short-lived, grinding to a halt when the trees can no longer extract the essential nutrient nitrogen from the soil.

But in the Rhinelander study, the trees bathed in elevated carbon dioxide continued to grow at an accelerated rate throughout the 12-year experiment. In the final three years of the study, the CO2-soaked trees grew 26 percent more than those exposed to normal levels of carbon dioxide.

It appears that the extra carbon dioxide allowed trees to grow more small roots and “forage” more successfully for nitrogen in the soil, Zak said. At the same time, the rate at which microorganisms released nitrogen back to the soil, as fallen leaves and branches decayed, increased.

“The greater growth has been sustained by an acceleration, rather than a slowing down, of soil nitrogen cycling,” Zak said. “Under elevated carbon dioxide, the trees did a better job of getting nitrogen out of the soil, and there was more of it for plants to use.”

Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources. No one knows how long it will take to reach that limit, he said.

The ozone portion of the 12-year experiment also held surprises.

Ground-level ozone is known to damage plant tissues and interfere with photosynthesis. Conventional wisdom has held that in the future, increasing levels of ozone would constrain the degree to which rising levels of carbon dioxide would promote tree growth, canceling out some of a forest’s ability to buffer projected climate warming.

In the first few years of the Rhinelander experiment, that’s exactly what was observed. Trees exposed to elevated levels of ozone did not grow as fast as other trees. But by the end of study, ozone had no effect at all on forest productivity.

“What happened is that ozone-tolerant species and genotypes in our experiment more or less took up the slack left behind by those who were negatively affected, and that’s called compensatory growth,” Zak said. The same thing happened with growth under elevated carbon dioxide, under which some genotypes and species fared better than others.

“The interesting take home point with this is that aspects of biological diversity—like genetic diversity and plant species compositions—are important components of an ecosystem’s response to climate change,” he said. “Biodiversity matters, in this regard.”

###

Co-authors of the Ecology Letters paper were Kurt Pregitzer of the University of Idaho, Mark Kubiske of the U.S. Forest Service and Andrew Burton of Michigan Technological University. The work was funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Forest Service.

About these ads

116 thoughts on “Plant trees, not carbon laws

  1. “Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources. No one knows how long it will take to reach that limit, he said.”

    And what results in the study support this conclusion? They already had their expectations proven wrong once, but they turn around and state this as a definite that there is a hard limit to the nitrogen cycle?

  2. “The results of a 12-year study at an experimental forest in northeastern Wisconsin challenge several long-held assumptions about how future forests will respond to the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide blamed for human-caused climate change…”
    I think that sums it up. Science is dependent on data not assumptions or model bafflegab.

  3. Dang, more “unexpectedly” for the “science is settled” sector.
    Numerous experiments and actual business enterprises have shown that CO2 is plant food and increases growth. If they next look at natural succession they might notice that early pioneer plants tend to be nitrogen fixers preparing the soil for their successors.

  4. It demonstrates the pointlessness of models as predictors, when applied to largely unknown complex multi faceted unstable systems.

    Modelling water, air flow, structural members; is easy and reliable. Modelling something unknown and believing the results is dang foolish.

  5. Increased CO2 tends to make many plants more drought tolerant, too. Plants in higher concentrations of CO2 can make fewer stoma which reduces the amount of water they lose.

  6. Pity there isn’t more biodiversity in the AGW perspective. Perhaps we are finally seeing more scientific data being published that dares to state facts rather than state how the facts support the theory.

  7. From the article “North American forests appear to have a greater capacity to soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas than researchers had previously anticipated.”

    Heat-trapping, really?

  8. Fine, but trees, like people, stop growing after a while, hold roughly constant carbon, then die and release it. So where’s the gain or loss in terms of short geological time spans? Also, it’s not just nitrogen that can become limiting. Any essential nutrient can become limiting, in theory.

  9. The problem with planting more forests to soak up CO2 is that it does not shout out to us prols that our respective governments are “doing something” to combat global warming. Windmills, green taxes and propaganda on the other hand do. Sadly this is the intrusive nature of modern politics.
    The one good thing that this study may bring about is that when the fallacy of AGW becomes incontrovertible, then governments have a get-out clause to plant more forests (which whether you believe in AGW or not, cannot be a bad thing) and remove all subsidies to windmills. Our landscape will once again look picturesque and the worlds governments will not look stupid for falling for the biggest and most expensive con trick ever perpetrated on mankind

  10. Cool!!!
    My big brother and I, bought, planted, and tended 90 – 120 trees a year. NOT because of AGW, but for conservation reasons. :)

  11. Don’t believe this, until the trees are Peer Reviewed!

    That won’t be before the next report from the IPCC for sure.

  12. The usual false statement “heat-trapping catbon dioxide”. Where do they get the idea that carbon dioxide can trap heat? They’ve been listening to too much false propaganda.

  13. “Some of the initial assumptions about ecosystem response are not correct and will have to be revised,”said Zak, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
    No shock there
    Shylock!
    Captain Obvious to the rescue.
    Their problem is they are wedded to the CO2 is bad theory and won’t give it up til death.

  14. Having been in the habit of planting many hundreds of trees a year (with friends in a Landcare group) I am encouraged by this report.

    My thoughts while reading the early part was; “what about nitrogen fixing organisms? Surely there is likely to be a change in the ecosystem to increase Nitrogen in the soil.” Pretty bloody obvious even to a non-scientist like myself.

    My prediction is that gradually the story will change… all the CAGW excitement will die down but we will still be left with a disastrous carbon tax to hobble our economy. There will be no acknowledgement by the warmistas that they ever caused the panic. I wonder what the next big catastrophic man made disaster will be that requires taxes to fix?

    Mmmmmh… this is hard, everything thing I can think of is already frowned upon. Aha! How about EM transmission? I know this is already a concern for some, but maybe the green movement and the “communication scientists” will model the effects of transmitting TV, radio, internet etc and decide that it is destroying the environment and must be taxed out of existence? Just thinkin’ :-).

  15. Actual research, AND they seem have taken aboard the results. Well done that Zak man. :-)

    As I understand plant foody type things, nitrogen is the limiter especially and mostly because it is so water soluble (it can/does leach out of the soil) – in particular compared to phosphate and potash that bind very strongly to soil particles.
    Removing stuff and burning it (Biomass) is a real killer for the medium to long term :-(

    But, nitrogen is easy – and – it took me a while to realise even on my own little patch.
    Round here grows a plant called ‘Alder’ (Alnus glutinosa) It grows like nobody’s business where nothing else does.
    Reason: Simple, it fixes its own nitrogen.
    QED

  16. What did they expect? That we lived in a stable climate from thousands of years and that our plants have forgotten about what extra CO2 can do for them?

    And why are they expecting additional ozone? At least in North-America and Western Europe, air quality has been improving the last 70 years.

  17. Geoff Sherrington says:
    October 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    “Fine, but trees, like people, stop growing after a while, hold roughly constant carbon, then die and release it. So where’s the gain or loss in terms of short geological time spans? Also, it’s not just nitrogen that can become limiting. Any essential nutrient can become limiting, in theory.”

    Presumably over 100 years there would be an infinitely more take up of carbon than that lost on the death of a tree or animal to give a net take up, or is my science wrong.

  18. Steepdown asks , “Where do they get the idea that carbon dioxide can trap heat?” and then suggests an answer “They’ve been listening to too much false propaganda.” Is no one here capable of or willing to explain to Steepdown an alternate explanation of where “they” get the idea that carbon dioxide can trap heat?

  19. Geoff Sherrington says:
    October 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm
    ————————————————–
    Actually, while the individual tree may die, it is replaced by another. Undisturbed high latitude / temperate forests can accumulate organic matter without any known limit. The stems, roots, leaves form a ever increasing organic layer on the forest floor that outpaces the decomposition caused by bacteria, fungus and other cellulose, etc. consumers.

    Unless fire is a prominent influence in the ecosystem, it can take many hundreds of years before the accumulation process slows down in many cases. If the ecosystem is very wet, peat will accumulate for thousands of years. These < 80 year old 2nd growth forests are just STARTING this carbon accumulation process..

  20. George Lawson says: October 14, 2011 at 12:52 am reGeoff Sherrington says: October 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    George, “Infinitely” is a word with mathematical meaning that does not apply to your example. 100 years is NOT a short time on the geological era time scale. Try 10,000 years and redo your sums to find that tree planting makes no great diference. It cannot, in the way you are thinking. Trees take up carbon, they mature, they die, they release it. The only significant way to sequester carbon in trees is to replace a “barren” area with trees whose cumulative carbon weight is greater, then to maintain that carbon uptake FOREVER.

    Many people do not realise how badly they are being scammed by schemes to “put more carbon into soil” or to “grow more trees for emission credits”. It’s the next closest move to outright theft. You’re daft if you invest in these credit thingos. Or of criminal mind if you start one.

  21. I can’t think of one species of life that doesn’t thrive in the presence of plentiful food. Can anyone else think of one?

    Tha vast Taiga forests of the northern hemisphere literally change the composition of the atmosphere during the NH spring/summer

  22. @Greg Cavanagh
    We’ve recently had a fuel-oil spill here, and the model failed to predict exactly where it would come ashore.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/5763638/Locals-get-stuck-into-beach-oil-cleanup

    So I’m not sold entirely sold on models of water in the real world. Maybe in more enclosed environments the models work better, but then what is the point?
    In the case of the oil it was still better to use observation of where the oil came ashore, than rely on models.

  23. Ann Arbor, a scientist I presume, uses the non scientific phrase ‘-heat trapping’ CO2. It might interest her to know that nothing can trap heat since CO2, like everything else, must obey the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

  24. James Reid says:
    October 14, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Pretty bloody obvious even to a non-scientist like myself

    Scientist – Some one who can earn a great deal of money from stating the obvious.

  25. I love trees and have planted many over the 60 years I have lived. There is no requirement for a computer model or 12 year long study to tell us the benefits, especially when using the grant money grabbing line, “rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide blamed for human-caused climate change” garbage!

  26. “The only significant way to sequester carbon in trees is to replace a “barren” area with trees whose cumulative carbon weight is greater, then to maintain that carbon uptake FOREVER.” GS Quote

    Isn’t that what planting more trees is all about, ie doing the above!?!

  27. Geoff Sherrington:
    Personally I am not interested at all in what happens in geological times in the future. My future, and that of my children and grandchildren spans perhaps the next 70yrs. So what happens in 1000 or 10,000 years is totally irrelevent to our lives. Geological time spans hold no immediate interest for us and maybe to most of mankind. Here and now and the foreseeable future is what matters to us.
    And in this context you are wrong about the time taken to return carbon sequestered by woody plants to decay. 100 yrs is important.
    From 1968 to 1998 I lived in a house built with timber cut down in the 1600’s – that timber is now over 400yrs old and the house still stands. Point taken?
    In the river bed nearby are stands of bamboo reaching 6m in height; they grow that tall in 2yrs. They die back, leaving the woody stems (30-50mmdia) which rot away very, very slowly. I walk over woody detritus every day which has been there for the past 15yrs or more.
    The truth is, woody plants can lock up carbon faster than it is released by natural means and we can lock it up for much longer by using wood for constructional and other purposes.

    All it requires is good management.

  28. Plants take in CO2 thru their stomata – holes in their leaves. The density of these (stomata per sq inch) varies with CO2 concentration. Which can be used to estimate CO2 concenration in prehistory, using leaves preserved anaerobically in lake deposits.
    But my point here is to ask if stomata concenration is fixed for a given plant. It must be be during the life of each leaf, but do plants control this genetically, so concentrations stay fixed for the life of the tree? Either way, over time, leaves will grow with fewer stomate as CO2 concentation rises, so obviating the effect found in the post above.

  29. AGW does not exist, it is a fallacy. Climate models are seriously flawed, as time goes on the data is retro manipulted. Co2 is a fertilizer, everyone knows that, I fail to see this as 12years other than wasted, non science again.

  30. OMG! Shock Horror!!!! Trees absorb CO2 & grow faster & better!!! It just cannot be true!! Worse still, O3 doesn’t hinder tree growth in the long term, the bloody trees “adapted”, damn them they should have died! This is “revolutionary” stuff, folks, why has nobody come up with this “revolutionary” idea before? How much did this 11 year “revolutionary” jamboree cost you US taxpayers anyway? Next, they’ll be saying that variable Solar output, coupled with variable UV & Extreme UV, plus low magnetic field strengths & Solar wind, assisted with increased Galatic Cosmic Rays, has an effect on Earth’s Climate, ha, pull the other one, oh puurrleeeze, where do they get these ideas from? Sarc off. :-) Someone ought to point out that vegetation has been around for eons because it adapted to Climate Changes of the past, & that if the Earth was, for the sake of argument, a year old Humanity turned up around 8:40pm on New Years Eve!!! Stay sharp & get a grip people, we’re still on a learning curve, & I still prefer the Non-UN Agenda 20, where people were free, had justice, & the right to a life, unfettered by dictators & venal mendacious politicians & Socialists! Oh, & while I am about it, when these scientists find out they were wrong about something, why can’t they just grow a pair & say, “sorry, I was wrong!”. HAGWE everyone, I’ll be cheering for Wales in the morning at the RWC!

  31. John Marshall says:
    October 14, 2011 at 1:40 am
    “Ann Arbor, a scientist I presume, ….”

    Ann Arbor is actually the name of a city in Michigan, rather than the name of the author of the article. The author appears to be anonymous.

  32. I do remember in the past that some one mentioned that North America as a whole is a nett carbon sink. The forests you have in the last hundred years have actually increased in size as marginal farm land is abandoned and and people as a habit plant trees. North America may use a lot of fuel and coal but I fear you have been branded as evil CO2 producers but are in reality a carbon sink. Thus these trees are telling us the truth. CO2 monitoring stations on the coast lines and in continental USA may be a cause of severe embarrassment to the AGW crowd. One half an hour after sunrise the CO2 levels in a corn field are depleted, this tells us we are lacking CO2.

    Push for more CO2 monitoring over continental USA and Canada and a surprise awaits.

  33. In articles ‘solar climate no longer taboo’ and this one there seems to be a need by the authors to still point to CO2 as the cause of global warming. If trees can feed on the CO2 removing it from the atmosphere, plant lots of trees and stop global warming if that’s the case. My son pumps CO2 into his fish tank to help the plants grow, it’s not new knowledge, but maybe admitting it is.

  34. to the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide blamed for human-caused climate change

    This is a new level of assumption. ‘Human caused climate change is real and CO2 is being blamed for that climate change’ appears to be a reversal of the logic. Given that the research is based on a falsified hypothesis it would appear to be a waste of funds. You would get more and better information from a forester who would point out that there are several areas of the world where forests have been growing in the same place for centuries – and the nitrogen cycle hasn’t stopped.

  35. It seems odd for the UM team to introduce two (in their own words) mutually canceling variables in the same experiment. CO2 and ozone (smog) act (according to them) in opposite directions, so to have them applied simultaneously to the same experimental subjects seems capricious at best. The trees grew in spite of all that; CO2 is plant food.

  36. This has been my response to AGW proponents who want to wag their finger at me over my carbon footprint. I simply tell them that I own and maintain over 50 acres of forest land in Michigan which sinks far more carbon than my family and I produce. It also produces far more fresh, clean air than we use. That means that, those who don’t own and maintain forest land are actually getting a free-ride off of me. So, if they’re so worried about carbon, go buy land, plant trees and keep it undeveloped – put your money where your big mouth is. Stop being a deadbeat freeloader. Oh, and by the way, you’re welcome.

  37. I told you so. Many times.
    The only question is,: Why I should work hard, while these “scientists” lazily walk along their orangeries with cups of coffee, then lazily typing a few word of their trite blah-blah (“Genetic diversity and plant species compositions—are important components of an ecosystem’s response to climate change” — who would have thought? Except there’s no “climate change” to speak of), and then receive their lazy salaries financed by… hapless me.
    I am burning with the class hatred. Ignorant parasites. Hang them all high!

  38. Trees have had several million years more eco-bio-diversity evolutionary experience than us johnny come latelys. They adapt to climate change, not fight it.

  39. If we consider atmosphere around the earth an enclosed system, then total CO2 available in the system remain constant. Actual problem is population explosion in the third world countries needing fossil fuel, housing resulting in deforestation and uncontrolled emissions CO2 from the factories. In populous cities like Bombay and Karachi, if you walk out wearing white shirt durring peak hours, you will find flakes of carbon deposited on your shirt. The point is the carbon present under the earth crest is coming out and trees are disappearing at very fast pace.The trees will grow faster only if they continue existing, otherwise we will definitely have ever increasing surplus CO2. The soil nitrogen may reduce in your part of globe it will remain surplus in this part of globe. We need a global approach to address this problem.

  40. I’ll bet the tree rings on those trees are real fat. Maybe tree rings are a better indicator of changing CO2 levels than temperature.

  41. The best way is actually to plant more trees and to use more wood, the carbon is sequestrated in the lumber for many years while news trees are growing in place of the used ones.

    • Gilles commented on Plant trees, not carbon laws.

      The best way is actually to plant more trees and to use more wood, the carbon is sequestrated in the lumber for many years while news trees are growing in place of the used ones

      Yes, and stop recycling paper. Trees are grown as crops for paper. “Recycle your breadcrumbs! Save the wheat!”
      Faugh.

  42. But, but, but…….
    “Increasing CO2 levels would only be beneficial inside of highly controlled, enclosed spaces like greenhouses.” SkS

    They put a whole forest in a greenhouse? /sarc.

    Eudoxus
    Steepdown is right, CO2 can absorb “heat” in the form of some IR wavelengths but not “trap” it. The CO2 molecule increases in internal energy (vibration) upon absorption which could then be dissipated through collisions with other molecules into translational motion or through radiant emission. Heat by definition is the transfer of energy not the stored energy so while the CO2 molecule has increased internal energy in vibration this energy is not “heat”.

    Whenever I see “heat trapping” my eyes roll, and I know the author has drunk the Kool-Aid.

    Think of it this way, what if I said “light trapping CO2 molecule”.

  43. And this is a new finding how? Greenhouse horticulturists have known this since they put their first little baby tree in a greenhouse.

    Plus! It takes a lowly armchair reader to state the obvious. When trees hit wall, cut them down and plant new ones. Spewed coffee all over my puter when I read that one.

    Who are these researchers? Kids???? Do they NOT do liturature review anymore in preparation for their research proposal? And who sat on the grant committee and decided this study would produce new information?

  44. “Co-authors of the Ecology Letters paper were Kurt Pregitzer of the University of Idaho, Mark Kubiske of the U.S. Forest Service and Andrew Burton of Michigan Technological University. The work was funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Forest Service.”

  45. Science is always settled. It just continously keeps re-settling in different places. Darned frustrating! AGW science is like Whack-a-Gore on steroids. Only after one whack, Gore-boks don’t seem to be showing up in the same holes. Odd, that.

  46. @Gilles says:
    October 14, 2011 at 5:25 am
    “The best way is actually to plant more trees and to use more wood, the carbon is sequestrated in the lumber for many years while news trees are growing in place of the used ones.
    ======================================================

    Or move back to paper grocery bags. No oil used and the carbon is sequestered in landfills for years.

    Or print more National Geographics. No one throws those away and the carbon would be sequestered for centuries in attics across America.

    You’re on to something, Gilles.

  47. So let me get this straight, they spent all of this money to come to two well known conclusions:
    Change an environment and the organisms present will adapt or die.
    Plants really love the CO2.

    Man I really need to get into this climate science business, get paid to learn absolutely nothing new.

  48. Patrick Davis says:
    October 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    From the article “North American forests appear to have a greater capacity to soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas than researchers had previously anticipated.”
    Heat-trapping, really?

    Quite so: replace with “North American forests appear to have a greater capacity to fix carbon dioxide than researchers had previously anticipated.”

  49. Look at this typical clueless green idiocy

    new-zealand-oil-spill-should-highlight-the-death-of-worlds-coral-reefs

    But but but … the astrolabe reef isn’t a coral reef! It is just plain old rock! Indeed we don’t have coral reefs as such in New Zealand – the water is too cold. Having our beautiful pristine beaches covered in oil and rubbish is bad enough without these brainless twerps trying to exploit the tragedy to push a completely unrelated issue.

  50. Rory Barclay says:
    October 13, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    “Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources. No one knows how long it will take to reach that limit, he said.”

    And what results in the study support this conclusion? They already had their expectations proven wrong once, but they turn around and state this as a definite that there is a hard limit to the nitrogen cycle?

    The need to get a scientific paper past some critical reviewer often leads to some disfigurement.
    Statements inserted at the revision stage often stick out like erratic boulders, without any connection to the surrounding context or the main conclusion of the manuscript.

  51. The irony of course is that we will cut down those trees to make the paper upon which we write those global warming laws…

  52. Oh my, sound the alarm, the amazon might come to an end because, well, the nitrogen cycle might stop peddling due to too many roots insnared in the trees wheel o’ life after a billion years. And who’s to blame? Well, apparently, the climate communist hippies say they’re responsible. :p

  53. Before everyone gets all bound up in calculations as to how many trees, how many years, how much land, how much CO2 is netted out, etc., don’t forget to remind yourselves that the bigger question is: Does any of this matter?

    If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourselves falling in with the CO2-must-be-controlled crowd by advocating replacing windmills and solar panel fields with trees for the wrong reason. The right reasons are that trees are more visually appealing and are make economic sense so people will plant forests without government inducements, as they have been doing for decades already.

    It was an interesting finding, but it wasn’t an answer to a “problem” unless the “problem” indeed exists.

  54. Dr Ware,

    They reported that ozone was added to “some” of the plots. I see that as two different experiments run side by side.

  55. What a bunch of dumb s****…..

    We know that trees, C4’s, evolved when CO2 levels were in the thousands.
    We know that trees shut down when CO2 levels drop to around 200-250 ppm.

    ..and they don’t have the sense to know that our current CO2 levels are limiting to trees!

  56. I have to admit I’m a bit perplexed by the idea that a tree has to get nitrogen out of the ground, when the atmosphere is 4/5 nitrogen. I can see how nitrogen fixed in the ground is more efficiently used by the tree than atmospheric nitrogen, and that when the ground supply runs short the growth rate might SLOW a bit as the tree switches to the less-efficient nitrogen uptake, but not that it would be a hard limit.

  57. “Filbert Cobb says:
    October 14, 2011 at 6:42 am”

    How does that address the “heat trapping” claim for CO2?

  58. Geoff Sherrington says:
    October 14, 2011 at 1:32 am
    Many people do not realise how badly they are being scammed by schemes to “put more carbon into soil” or to “grow more trees for emission credits”. It’s the next closest move to outright theft. You’re daft if you invest in these credit thingos. Or of criminal mind if you start one.

    Turn over REDD and you will find Maurice Strong. Look a bit further and you find names like Gore, Clinton, WWF. Carbon credits for not cutting down trees — this year. Once the carbon credits are paid, who can say what will happen. If the trees are sold to someone else, will the money be returned? What if it has already been spent?

    Studies like this, showing that trees trap more carbon than originally thought improve the economics for REDD. They improve the economics of buying off corrupt officials to look the other way as third world people’s are displaced from their land to make way for carbon farms. Tropical forest converted to oil palm on a global scale. How many indigenous people’s can show a “deed” for the land their ancestors have lived on for thousands of years?

  59. “In addition to trapping heat, carbon dioxide is known to have a fertilizing effect on trees and other plants, making them grow faster than they normally would. Climate researchers and ecosystem modelers assume that in coming decades, carbon dioxide’s fertilizing effect will temporarily boost the growth rate of northern temperate forests.”
    ——————————–
    carbon dioxide is known to have a fertilizing effect on trees and other plants

    fertilizing effect? Here I thought CO2 was necessary for plants rather than a growth promoter.
    I thought no CO2 no plants and no plants then no O2.
    Who’d-a-thunk…………fertilizing effect, huh?

  60. Here is the problem with scientists who are like these people in this article. They first study something that they do not have an elementary understanding of. Then they write models or use models written by others in that same camp.

    Finally, the result is obvious: a piece of *@&$ article that any 10 year old would have done just as well if not better since they actually use SOURCES and use FACTS. Just terrible if you ask me.

    Why? Well let’s look at the facts.

    Plants in general are LIMITED by one of several factors. This has been known for hundreds of years. The growth will continue on faster then average forever. (Barring something strange occurring such as a drought). This is because the increased CO2 has made that not a limiting resource. The growth seen will continue and unless they starve the plants on purpose (water, nitrogen, etc), their growth as evidenced will continue until they do reach the limit. Perhaps sunlight is a limit as well?

    Who knows. But the fact remains that instead of analyzing the growth patterns from a correct point of view in that the growth is being limited at a new level due to “some other lack” they have not found what this lack is and instead pontificate on about lack of nitrogen with no idea if it is sunlight, or temperature or soil nutrients (not just nitrogen mind you) that is causing this lack of further expansion in growth.

    And the entire part about ozone? Ozone levels in our country have been heading downwards over the last 30 years approx. In fact, ozone action days are at an all-time low today. So the idea that this will reverse itself (the trend) is at best stupid speculation and more probably a blantant lie.

    In fact, if you chart pollutants over the last 100 years, the downward trend makes it impossible to determine when the CAA was passed. (Julian Simon) Funny how facts get in the way of good stories isn’t it?

    In other words, studies like this are made by scientists who do not deserve that title. They have in fact written drivel that a 10 year old would not have because they would have actually gotten the basic facts correct.

    My only question is of course in similarity with other studies like this: Do these people know that they are wrong, or are just ignorant?

  61. The Monster says:
    October 14, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I have to admit I’m a bit perplexed by the idea that a tree has to get nitrogen out of the ground, when the atmosphere is 4/5 nitrogen. I can see how nitrogen fixed in the ground is more efficiently used by the tree than atmospheric nitrogen, and that when the ground supply runs short the growth rate might SLOW a bit as the tree switches to the less-efficient nitrogen uptake, but not that it would be a hard limit.

    Atmospheric nitrogen is N2. Living organisms need nitrogen as ammonia (NH3). Only relatively few soil bacteria can convert N2 to NH3; plants themselves can’t. This process can be bypassed through the use of chemical fertilizers that contain ammonia and/or nitrate, which can be reduced to ammonia by other organisms. Alternatively, nitrogen fixation can be promoted by leguminous plants, the roots of which host nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
    Where the idea of a hard limit to the capacity of nitrogen fixation comes from I don’t know, and it is interesting to note that no such limit was observed in the current study.

  62. Expecting don’t make it so.
    Simulating expected but not known conditions at a future time and finding trees work better than thought accomplishes research that might be good to know except the atmospheric conditions they claim are expected have not been proven to be expected.

  63. In “Little House in the Big Woods,” by L.I. Wilder, Pa complains that he just can’t farm in Minnesota – he clears his field every year, but the trees just keep growing back! Our friend who lives on his grandfather’s old tree farm near DeSabla says the same thing – he says, you can’t kill the forest, you can cut it and change it, but it will always grow back.

    We have a little property in the woods, and I notice, they’re right. I have to remove baby trees from the driveway every year. I brought some cedars home to Chico, but only one of the seven has made it – and it’s doing fairly well in my front yard here at my home. Right now I have a bay and a red bud in pots, trying to decide, where should I place them. I placed a bigger rescued redbud in my yard and after a sketchy year it has grown a couple of feet and started to fill out very nicely.

    A dogwood we rescued from a crack in the sidewalk 20 years ago is now over 15 feet tall with a huge crown of flowers every spring. We planted that at a house we later sold but we drive by every fall to see the color and every spring to see the flowers.

    Some of my best little trees are five bays I found uprooted during a project in Bidwell Park. The city crew was digging a trench to lay drainage for a new subdivision, and they’d just torn out 9 very nice little trees, and there they were, tops buried in mud, and roots sticking up in the air. With permission of the crew, my husband and I dug them out and put them in our bike cart and brought them home. We didn’t know where to put them, so four of them never made it out of the pots. The five that made it are all over eight feet tall and at least that big around.

    I haven’t always had the best luck – I spent a lot of time digging out and transplanting some little dogwoods to my yard here – our newfoundland just attacked them. For some reason, he just decided to eat them, we never figured it out. “Dog” – woods?

    But the successes I’ve had, when I think about it, are probably the only thing I have done that will be truly appreciated in the future.

    thanks Anthony, great idea.

  64. I don’t know why they think low-level oznone would increase, pollution is decreasing.

    Trees bleed sugar from their roots to benefit bacteria and fungi. Nitrogen fixing bacteria get more food when trees grow faster.

  65. Some of the trees were also bathed in elevated levels of ground-level ozone, the primary constituent in smog, to simulate the increasingly polluted air of the future.
    ——————————
    I was told the air was improving not getting “increasingly polluted.”

  66. Mike says:
    October 14, 2011 at 8:20 am
    ====================================
    Cyanobacteria mostly, they are everywhere

  67. See how they have some stands planted in a ring? I haven’t seen that since I lived in the UK. A Forester explained it to me. They’d plant an Ash and let it grow for a few years. Then plant pine trees in a ring around it. Since the Pines grow faster, the Ash would lose its lower limbs and grow straight up with very few branches along its length. These made great masts for the Royal Navy.

  68. Chuck Nolan says:
    October 14, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Some of the trees were also bathed in elevated levels of ground-level ozone, the primary constituent in smog, to simulate the increasingly polluted air of the future.
    ——————————
    I was told the air was improving not getting “increasingly polluted.”

    _________________________________________________
    Yeah, I spotted the same straw-man and wondered about it. Having said that, this is a long-term experiment (12 years mentioned and it may have been a while with the paper in review – since it doesn’t exactly support CAGW), so maybe this was one of the justifications for the original grant and they are just quoting from the application.

    Ozone at ground level has been reduced significantly by the various clean air acts around the world – even though the EPA is still pretending that it is deadly in order to reduce it further.

  69. “Some of the initial assumptions about ecosystem response are not correct and will have to be revised,” said Zak, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources”

    Precisely, theories in biology are skewed to satisfy Malthusian underpinnings. I knew this result before the tests and I’m only a mining geologist/engineer. I based my certainty on the certainty that biologist/ecologists assume the path to disaster is short- which, as you can see has some prediction skill (that they are wrong)

  70. Anecdotal but relavent. 50 year-old McIntosh apple tree next to my mom’s house in upstate New York. Biggest crop of apples ever last fall. Only thing that changed is in previous winter the old gas furnace (vintage 1965) was replaced with a new one which has intake and exhaust pipes positioned about 4′ off the ground at the side of the house whereas the old furnace exhausted out the roof chimney high above the ground and had no separate intake pipe.

    Long story short the exhaust blows right about onto the trunk of that apple tree from about 12 feet away.

  71. I am a little confused when I hear that when trees and plant-life dies the carbon they absorbed while growing is immediately released into the atmosphere. How can this be if those 100 foot seams of coal in Wyoming that were formed 300 million years ago were from decaying vegetation. If this is true than we have the ability to sequester carbon for millions of years.

  72. “Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources. No one knows how long it will take to reach that limit, he said.”

    Sooo….

    The Amazon Rain Forest must have hit the “fully exploit” wall long ago. Indeed the entire tropical and sup-tropical growing areas of the world must be in distress due to lack of nitrogen.

    When will they all die off?

    I smell a new grant application….

    • Prob’ly some legumes snuck in there and fixed it for ‘em. (That’s why eating them is so productive of potent GHGs.)

  73. “Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources.

    Zak my boy, you should have taken the nitrogen-from-the atmosphere 101 option in your undergrad studies. Nitrogen makes up 80% of the atmosphere and it falls in the rain, is sucked in by soil bacteria, and is especially efficiently pulled in by legumes growing in the soil. A thunderstorm causes a rich blast of nitrogen for the soil. Did you ever stop to think how the “nitrogen resources” in the soil got there in the first place? Oh well, there will be a timely re-discovery of this by plant scientists before too long. Hey the just worked out that CO2 is beneficial.

  74. What the narrowly focused scientists and enviro-radicals of today usually don’t consider in their thought process is that trade-offs usually come into play in the real world. For example, there are numerous leguminous and non-leguminous forest undercover plant species that are capable of symbiotically producing nitrogen in a readily available form for plant uptake. Unfortunately, they are also palatable to many forest critters. If we overseeded forests with these species to increase nitrogen, eventually we would have to shoot the proliferating Bambi’s.

  75. Actinorhizal plants are dicotyledons distributed among four angiosperm orders (Fagales, Cucurbitales, Fabales and Rosales), 8 families and 24 genera (Betulaceae: Alnus; Casuarinaceae: Gymnostoma, Casuarina, Allocasuarina, Ceuthostoma; Coriariaceae: Coriaria; Datiscaceae: Datisca, Elaeagnaceae: Eleagnus, Hippophae, Shepherdia; Myricaceae: Myrica, Comptonia; Rhamnaceae: Colletia, Discaria, Kenthrothammus, Retanilla, Talguenea, Trevoa, Ceanothus; Rosaceae: Dryas, Purshia, Cowania, Cercocarpus, Chamaebatia). Actinorhizal species are trees or shrubs, except for the genus Datisca.

    Many are common plants in temperate regions like alder, bayberry, sweetfern, Avens, mountain misery and Coriaria. Some Elaeagnus species and Sea-buckthorns produce edible fruit.

  76. Carbon sequestration need not be the chief aim. It suits me fine to say we’re reforesting for the sake of reforesting.

    All of this begs the (naive) question, “But don’t commercial timber industries plan ahead, planting the trees they will soon harvest in big, like, nurseries, replanting the ones they have already cut?”

    The Weyerhaeuser website is so green it hurts your eyes, but I imagine they are more interested in the “back end” of their investment, namely the harvest.

    http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/

    Even if capitalists do want to undertake replanting projects for (some future?) profit, my sense is that ultimately, they will have to navigate government bureaucracies, cooperate with government agencies to build roads, and to cut, and even take government subsidies to alleviate front-end losses. Where would they plant? What responsibility would they have for maintaining their “crops” of trees? How will they ultimately harvest their (or the government’s, or the private land owner’s) trees?

    And why is it that right now, if you’re a lumberjack, you’re not “o.k.”:

    http://www.timberharvesting.com/2011-logging-business-survey-big-squeeze/

  77. Future forests may soak up more carbon dioxide than previously believed

    Translation: The countries of the South with huge forests will be able to get larger international financial transfers from developed countries to store their carbon under REDD.

  78. Oh, ferchrissakes. Of course trees “soak up” carbon dioxide. But they call it “food.”

  79. The irony is that companies like weyerhaeuser who replant the trees they take down are villified by the same crowd that thinks CO2 is killing the planet. Talk about your carbon sinks, just think of all the carbon that is tied up in the wood of our houses.

  80. How much carbon would there be in a live tree (and leaves) weighing (say) 10 tonnes? Does anybody know?

  81. for the flatlanders among us: i’m really glad to see this topic come up. for nearly a half century i have heard the idiots screaming that you shouldn’t cut trees as they are gone forever. well they aren’t. i fought fire in western montana in my college summers and the trees that i planted as side work in 1962 were cut down and made into houses in bakersfield in 1995. it was part of a replanting cycle administrated by the USFS and paid for by the timber sales on govt. land. i believe that those areas have been replanted since.

    the largest contributer to tree ring width is WATER!!!! trees that grow in oregon near the coast where it rains a lot grow about an inch a year in diameter, where trees that grow in the montana/idaho forest areas grow about a quarter of that. same tree species, better sunlight in the montana stands, same ground….. the height is pretty much forced by the densty of the stand of trees, the closer they grow the taller the faster they grow. it’s easy to tell, just look at a logging truck from each area.

    for those who continue to snivel: You mow your lawns, DON’T YOU.

    in actuallity some of the major factors in tree loss is drought and bugs. drought and bugs kill the trees, then they dryout and sooner or later a lightining strike sets the whole mess on fire. quarter million acre fires or larger. (the country is so large that unless the fire comes withing a few miles of some of the larger towns not to many people notice.) it happens half a dozen times in ten years.

    the ecologists stand by and tell people that its their fault because they built their house within 70 miles of a lightning strike. this causes a considerable amount of bad feeling……. but that doesn’t slow the greenies down. as most of them live in the college towns quite a ways away. they’re not not to hard to miss as they usually have bullet holes in the trunks of their cars from stealing christmas trees off of private land.

    C

  82. I’d like to see a comparison of grassland vs forest. I would think the grassland environment could soak up even more carbon dioxide than a forested one. Grasslands can carry on photosynthesis for more months of the year than forests, and though they don’t store quantities of carbon as wood, the soils beneath them tend to accumulate very large volumes of organic matter which probably exceeds the volume of wood for a given acre of forest land.

  83. Lord-luv-a-duck, have all you gone out of your gourds? Why have you bought into this “storing/saving/soaking up carbon(-dioxide)” bushwah? Do you actually believe it’s important, efficacious, a good thing?

    Dig up limestone, roast it in coal-fired kilns, maximize atmospheric CO2. It pays big time in improved agriculture. As opposed to “carbon reduction”, which is lose-lose-lose-…. all the way down.
    And “pollution” from other hydrocarbons is well-controlled in affluent societies, and is FAR cheaper than gutting energy infrastructure and consumption. So let’s make everyone affluent. There’s a plan that will actually work!

    Get real.

  84. What is this about soaking up CO2? Doesn’t anyone else worry about how little of it there is?

    I was looking at a long distant past graph the other day, and noticed that the dinosaurs flourished when there was a very high level of CO2 – between 1,200ppm and 2,000 ppm. The dinosaurs were supposed to have been wiped out by a meteorite, but could it be that when CO2 dropped below 1,200 ppm or thereabouts 60 million years ago, the huge vegetation on which they lived was starved of the previously abundant CO2, and the dinosaurs starved. All life shrank. That always puzzled me..

    Stikes me that if CO2 drops much lower, the vegetation on which we live will shrink and we will all be extinct as well.

  85. I’d be willing to bet that, push comes to shove, that Photosynthesis is far more efficient at storing heat energy from the Sun than a trace gas floating in the atmosphere. For every CO2 molecule, there are 3,000 other molecules about. That’s mighty weak, but then so is CO2 trace gas warming theory.

  86. Once more, clearly.
    To sequester C by planting vegetation, you need to increse the weight of C at a given plot of land, then maintain that increase indefinitely.
    A scam that does not comply with this simple requirement needs its planners to be put in a small concrete room, breaking large rocks into small rocks.
    It does not matter if you can find old homes with wood 400 years old. Compared with total wood cut down 400 years ago, survival is miniscule. Given time, wood will either oxidise to give (mainly) CO2, or it will be buried into the peat/coal type cycle.
    I have never heard of a carbon credit scheme where the promoters aim to make more coal over the next x00,000 years before taking a profit. Therefore, promoters of tree planting to sequester CO2 are universally to be condemned, unless they have fine print that states compliance with the first principle above.
    While the will to plant more trees to harvest cash is abundant, the will to maintain the captured carbon forever is almost universally absent. Come in, suckers.

  87. Bah, University of Michigan and their trees! At University of Illinois, we cut down their trees, grind them, and convert them into biochar!

    http://www.istc.illinois.edu/research/090110symposium/1445.pdf

    Sorry, the Fighting Illini football team are on a roll, I got carried away…..biochar is great stuff, it improves the soil’s capacity to retain nutrients, reduces runoff pollution and is older than the hills (terra preta was biochar used by pre-Columbian peoples in the Amazon basin).

  88. *****
    Pete in Cumbria UK says:
    October 14, 2011 at 12:39 am

    But, nitrogen is easy – and – it took me a while to realise even on my own little patch.
    Round here grows a plant called ‘Alder’ (Alnus glutinosa) It grows like nobody’s business where nothing else does.
    Reason: Simple, it fixes its own nitrogen.
    QED

    *****

    Same as the copse of Bristly locust (Robinia hispida) in front of my house, where the grass is always greener than anywhere else. It suckers freely.

  89. Bill Parsons:
    i read through your referenced logging survey. my experience is in the western montana kellog idaho area during the early 60’s.

    the survey runs over the same stuff that was important fifty years ago. its vastly interesting that the loggers want bigger trucks that last longer between repairs with drivers that don’t drive off of the road when they’re half drunk, hauling logs (that the pay rate is much higher) to a mill that is only 15 miles from the timber sale rather than the 50 that it was.

    i find it also interesting that the survey pretty much leans to the more highly organized companies vs the “contract” outfits. contract loggers can really make money as long as their hours of work are not artificially restricted. one of the biggest logging shows in the northwest at that time (60-65) was run by a retired history teacher out of his back bedroom and shut down after five years of successful operation. (he did it on a bar bet and it was planned from the start to last five years.) it was all “green books” and “tin tag” numbers.

    one of the things that i find missing is that it appears as though the EPA has made serious inroads in the use of the “scrap wood” burned in the furnaces of low pressure (100-125#) boilers that were used to power both the sawmills and the drying houses. now they have to pay MONEY for “politically correct fuel” to do those tasks.

    it is also interesting that the largest buyer of “chips” in the area has gone out of business. (this is the stuff that the college bunch in north carolina was\is using in their wood to steam explosion experiments discussed a week or so ago on this blog.)

    i would point out that in order to transport the wood chips the local gang and the railroads built some truly gargantuan trucks and railroad cars pushed out to the maximum clearances 10’x16’x80′ to haul the chips and still make money.

    one of the things that the college boys never knew or didn’t bother to find out is that all wood product stuff is really temporary. this is because the trees (the crop) takes so long to bring to harvest (30-90 yrs) that by the time its ready for harvest a major change in the action (better transportation, bigger mill, off shore owner that takes the entire tree across an ocean) makes the “infrastructure” unusable. a prime example was when several of the big companies that practiced “balanced cutting” [that is replanting what you cut for a continous operation] were bought out by asian money and all of the logs were hauled out and nothing was replanted. it was a prime example of “bean counters” in a foreign land calling the shots and selling off the operation when the whole thing was clearcut. that put most of oregon and some of washington in the bread lines for quite some time.

    the more things change the more they remain the same.
    C

  90. Pamela Gray says:

    Who are these researchers? Kids???? Do they NOT do liturature review anymore in preparation for their research proposal? And who sat on the grant committee and decided this study would produce new information?

    Probably dosn’t help that lead researcher is a “microbial ecologist” as opposed to any kind of botanist.

  91. Freeman Dyson was all over this issue years ago. I was amazed by a short video interview of him from 2007 when he talks about this issue. I found it on popular technology:

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2010/07/eminent-physicists-skeptical-of-agw.html

    Where you can also find the list of over 900 peer reviewed papers supporting skepticism of AGW, among other things. They appreciate submissions/references for other papers that can be added to the list as you run across them. Here’s the Dyson video, it’s around 6 min. long.

    It looks like they”ve been busy since I was last there and have put up a number of other pages with the following reference :

    900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarm
    Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of “Green” Energy
    1,000 References of Global Cooling
    Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is Not Pollution
    Censored Global Warming Videos
    Climategate Resource
    Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories
    Eminent Physicists Skeptical of AGW Alarm
    NASA Astronaut Legends Skeptical of AGW Alarm
    Prominent Climatologists Skeptical of AGW Alarm
    Real Temperatures
    The Anti “Green” Energy Resource
    The Anti “Man-Made” Global Warming Resource
    The Anti Marijuana Resource
    The Anti Nationalized Health Care Resource
    The Anti Wikipedia Resource
    The Truth about DeSmogBlog
    The Truth about Greenfyre
    The Truth about RealClimate.org
    The Truth about SourceWatch

  92. “Zak stressed that growth-enhancing effects of CO2 in forests will eventually “hit the wall” and come to a halt. The trees’ roots will eventually “fully exploit” the soil’s nitrogen resources. No one knows how long it will take to reach that limit, he said.”

    Perhaps we should get him talking with the farmer who swears that by grinding a certain rock type into small bits and strewing this on the field produces exceptional growth because the plants can actually take nitrogen not only from soil, but also rock.

    http://tinyurl.com/3r9g6rv

    and

    http://tinyurl.com/3oakajy

  93. Rational Debate:

    if zaks idea of a “wall” limet of growth from trees over using nitrogen was of meret, just why hasn’t it happened several million years ago.

    if he is right we are actually living in an era that is the aftermath of that happening. could it be that this happens so slowly that we will adapt to its effects and not notice it?

    C

  94. I think I found the answer, in a different paper from the same group:

    …elevated CO2 (+CO2) of 560 µmol/mol…

    µmol/mol is another way of saying ppmv. So, the answer is that they kept CO2 at around 560 ppm (probably chosen because it is 2x a presumed pre-industrial 280 ppm).

    That’s actually very good news! I was afraid that it took 1000 ppm or more to get that 26% growth improvement. 560 ppm might be achievable before the end of the 21st century, if the greenies don’t bollix it up.

    Imagine if we were anticipating a climate change that was expected to reduce plant growth rates, by about 21%,for trees, and similar amounts for other plants, world-wide. The prospect would be universally & correctly considered to be an enormous disaster.

    Well, that’s the 390 ppm CO2 scenario, compared to 560 ppm. 1 – (100%/126%) = 21%. So if we want to avoid that disaster we’d better not curb CO2 emissions!

  95. daveburton says:
    November 5, 2011 at 7:05 am

    560 ppm might be achievable before the end of the 21st century, if the greenies don’t bollix it up.

    No worries, mate! We have China on our side. Heh-heh!!
    >:-)

Comments are closed.