Expansion of forests in the European Arctic could result in the release of carbon dioxide

From the University of Exeter , terrible news:

Carbon stored in Arctic tundra could be released into the atmosphere by new trees growing in the warmer region, exacerbating climate change, scientists have revealed.

The Arctic is getting greener as plant growth increases in response to a warmer climate. This greater plant growth means more carbon is stored in the increasing biomass, so it was previously thought the greening would result in more carbon dioxide being taken up from the atmosphere, thus helping to reduce the rate of global warming.

However, research published in Nature Climate Change, shows that, by stimulating decomposition rates in soils, the expansion of forest into tundra in arctic Sweden could result in the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Dr Iain Hartley now based in Geography at the University of Exeter, and lead author of the paper, said: “Determining directly how carbon storage is changing in high-latitude ecosystems is very difficult because the majority of the carbon present is stored below ground in the soils. Our work indicates that greater plant biomass may not always translate into greater carbon storage at the ecosystem level.

“We need to better understand how the anticipated changes in the distribution of different plant communities in the Arctic affects the decomposition of the large carbon stocks in tundra soils if we are to be able to predict how arctic greening will affect carbon dioxide uptake or release in the future.”

By measuring carbon stocks in vegetation and soils between tundra and neighbouring birch forest, it was shown that compared to tundra, the two-fold greater carbon storage in plant biomass in the forest was more than outweighed by the smaller carbon stocks in forest soils.

Furthermore, using a novel methodology based on measuring the radiocarbon content of the carbon dioxide being released, the researchers found that the birch trees appeared to be stimulating the decomposition of soil organic matter. Thus, the research was able to identify a mechanism by which the birch trees can contribute directly to reducing carbon storage in soils.

“Dr Gareth Phoenix, of the University of Sheffield’s Department Animal and Plant Sciences, who collaborated on the research, added:

“It shows that the encroachment of trees onto Arctic tundra caused by the warming may cause large release of carbon to the atmosphere, which would be bad for global warming.

“This is because tundra soil contains a lot of stored organic matter, due to slow decomposition, but the trees stimulate the decomposition of this material. So, where before we thought trees moving onto tundra would increase carbon storage it seems the opposite may be true. So, more bad news for climate change.”

The results of the study are in sharp contrast to the predictions of models which expect total carbon storage to increase with the greater plant growth. Rather, this research suggests that colonisation by productive, high-biomass, plant communities in the Arctic may not always result in greater capture of carbon dioxide, but instead net losses of carbon are possible if the decomposition of the large carbon stocks in Arctic soils are stimulated. This is important as Arctic soils currently store more carbon than is present in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and thus have considerable potential to affect rates of climate change. It is yet to be seen whether this observed pattern is confined to certain soil conditions and colonising tree species, or whether the carbon stocks in the soils of other arctic or alpine ecosystems may be vulnerable to colonisation by new plant communities as the climate continues to warm.

###

The research took place within the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded Arctic Biosphere Atmosphere Coupling at Multiple Scales project (ABACUS; www.abacus-ipy.org) which was led by the University of Edinburgh. This particular study was carried out by a team from the University of Exeter, University of Stirling, NERC Radiocarbon Facility, James Hutton Institute (Aberdeen), the University of Sheffield, and Heriot-Watt University.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Carbon sequestration and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to Expansion of forests in the European Arctic could result in the release of carbon dioxide

  1. More Green nonsense. They do not give up in their alarmism and their hands out for more money (it is possible; we need to better understand etc)

  2. cui bono says:

    These people would depress a hyena. Trees, no trees, you can’t win!

  3. Juraj V. says:

    “could result”, “scientists have revealed”, “may cause”, “we need to better understand how”, “as the climate continues to warm”.
    Oh my!

  4. richard says:

    i remember a few years back talking to a guy at Reading university about funding, he said scientists would fight like dogs for the little available and they would not be adverse to a bit of back stabbing.

    Then along came agw, as long as co2 is mentioned the floodgates open. You need to check out Phil Jones UEA( university of easy access) see what their funding was pre – agw scare and post.

  5. Eyal Porat says:

    Yes, it is defintely worse than we thought.

  6. GabrielHBay says:

    Well, we all know what the answer is… have a team on standby and the moment a tree rears its ugly little head in the arctic, cut the m****rf*****r down!
    /sarc
    Impossible to make a reasonable comment to this nonsense. May be true, but who cares? Irrelevant in the total scheme of things.

  7. Saaad says:

    Oh quick, let’s chop down the rest of the amazon rainforest to compensate…..oh wait…..(sarc off)

  8. Peter Miller says:

    Why on Earth would anyone ever study this unless there was an already pre-determined conclusion?

    Presumably the new birch and other trees contain no carbon – sarc.

  9. Mike M says:

    This proves what I have always said, the green movement has absolutely nothing to do with the color of trees.

  10. Christopher Hanley says:

    How interesting.
    From the breathless tone, you wouldn’t think that we have the good fortune to be living in one of those interglacials that have briefly punctuated the past few million years — but not quite as agreeable as it could be if it was about a degree or two warmer and the CO2 level was around, say, 900 ppm.

  11. Just in time for Rio…..

  12. Richard Briscoe says:

    “We need to better understand how the anticipated changes in the distribution of different plant communities in the Arctic affects the decomposition of the large carbon stocks in tundra soils if we are to be able to predict how arctic greening will affect carbon dioxide uptake or release in the future.”

    Translation for the layman:

    “Give me more money”

  13. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t; and scammed if we will and scammed if we won’t. Nothing matters anymore.

  14. Lawrie Ayres says:

    More rubbish science. Must be a UN party somewhere soon. I wasn’t aware there was warming in the tundra regions or else where either yet these “scientists” always start with “due to warming…..”. Must be good money in prostituting one’s principles.

  15. Bruce Cobb says:

    Yessirree, looks like a tipping point. It’s Serreze’s “Arctic Death Spiral” for sure. The end is nigh. Seriously? They get paid to produce such bilge?

  16. AndyG55 says:

    Good, the darn carbon has been locked up for too long.

    Plants LUV CO2 !!

  17. tango says:

    the water melon heads will not get into there heads that more C02 the better off we will be

  18. Bad trees for encroaching into the Arctic. That ASV Mulcher would do the trick, great machine.

  19. Stephen Richards says:

    Just look at the alarmist connections here. Exeter (met off), Edinburgh, Boldin? It goes on and on.

  20. RoyFOMR says:

    Simples. Just dig up the carbon-rich soil and move it north using fleets of solar powered bulldozers.

  21. Richdo says:

    “…the researchers found that the birch trees appeared to be stimulating the decomposition of soil organic matter.”

    Well of course they do. co2 is their primary food; more is better. Not surprising that they’d have evolved mechanisms to stimulate it’s release into a useable form. Seems the trees are smarter than the “climate scientists” studying them.

  22. Nerd says:

    You need heat to compost leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, etc.

    Makes sense.

    /sarc

  23. cui bono says:

    There’s only one way to deal with those pesky planet-destroying trees:

  24. R Barker says:

    So, George Orwell, what do you think of that?

  25. Bill Tuttle says:

    “This is because tundra soil contains a lot of stored organic matter, due to slow decomposition, but the trees stimulate the decomposition of this material.”

    So does a thing called “summer”…

    If the header had read “Expansion of forests in the European Arctic could result in the release of Charlie Manson,” I might be concerned.

  26. John Peter says:

    So where did the CO2 in the soil come from? Trees when the Arctic was warmer than at present. So what caused that “unprecedented” warming so many years ago. Stone age man’s SUVs?
    And what guarantee is there that new growth will not absorb as much CO2 as is potentially released?
    Or temperatures in the Arctic may start to decline again and what then? Will the researchers return their grant money? Maybe there should be a rule that if things turn out to be the opposite of what is predicted within say 10 years the grant money should be returned in full.

  27. Steve C says:

    “So, more bad news for climate change.”

    They got the obligatory plea for more money in, then. An honestly asked question: can anyone recall seeing any “mainstream” paper on a climate-related subject in recent years which concluded that the natural events studied were not bad news for “climate change” … maybe even good news?

  28. Antero Järvinen says:

    My study area in NW Finnish Lapland (Kilpisjärvi) lies about 100 km to the north from their study area. Based on digital analysis of old (1960) & new (2004) aerial photographs there has been absolutely no change in mountain birch forest area. I have worked in the area every year since 1973 and have observed no changes in, for instance, treeline or birch phenology. Best, Antero
    P.S. There is no Arctic zone in Sweden, Finland or (continental) Norway.

  29. Chuck L says:

    Another catastrophic CO2 scenario based on computer models; they just keep putting out this $h*t. Can’t they move on to some more “important” (pseudo) scientific topics like, oh, I don’t know, like “species extinction” or “sustainability?”

  30. JP says:

    Only an Alarmist would complain about the potential of increaseed number of trees in the subartic. And, as usual, if you read the story slowly and with care, the “study” never said that the number of trees in the tundra is actually on the upswing.

  31. Vince Causey says:

    You have to laugh at the irony beginning to emerge. “Green” means reducing carbon emissions, so the greening of the arctic which apparantly stimulates more CO2 emissions, must be – anti-green!

  32. Silver Ralph says:

    No chance of that in weastern Europe. Our trees did not come into leaf until late May this year – four month growing season. The trees are barely holding a toehold on Britain and Denmark, let alone expanding into the Tundra regions.

    .

  33. wayne Job says:

    Pretty sad really, but these people doing these studies seem to think they have a real job.
    It is not always increased temperature that makes trees grow, and I was so looking forward to the return of the forests in northern climes and now they tell me growing trees is a bad thing.

    This green global warming stuff is so full of contradictions that a Monty Python team would have enough comedy material for a century.

  34. FerdinandAkin says:

    We are teetering on the brink of a tipping point – a plant food tipping point. Once we cross this plant food tipping point there will be runaway greening of the Earth. The next step will be the return of the Dinosaurs.

  35. Jimbo says:

    It’s always bad news with these glum idiots.

    I wonder what the net effect would be with non-tundra soils being used for new forests, agriculture etc.?

    The last I remember was the biosphere has been greening for around 30 years now. What a calamity.

  36. J Crew says:

    Nature Climate Science is bias toward CGW research. Their peer review controls the slant on GW. We should not expect anything else. In this process ee are witnessing bad applied science and misinformation.

  37. KenB says:

    Looking after future families in a warming world – Grant application, this grant will aid a needy family and P.S. there is no more needy family than mine, signed A Climatologist

  38. Richard M says:

    It may not have been intended but this could indicate how CO2 levels have increased during the current warm spell. Add this to ocean outgassing and we have a natural explanation for rising CO2 levels. Thanks guys, I guess we no longer need to worry about trading in our SUVs.

  39. BillD says:

    Richard M. Fortunately, the oceans are still absorbing about 50% of the CO2 from fossil fuel burning. If this were not true, atmospheric CO2 would be increasing at a much higher rate.

  40. RobertInAz says:

    Been there, done that:
    Google subarctic treeline Holocene optimum. So it is likely the trees have already visited the regions of concern and then retreated during this interglacial. Thus contributing to the hich carbon content of the tundra.

  41. Steve Keohane says:

    “It shows that the encroachment of trees onto Arctic tundra caused by the warming may cause large release of carbon to the atmosphere, which would be bad for global warming.

    “This is because tundra soil contains a lot of stored organic matter, due to slow decomposition, but the trees stimulate the decomposition of this material. So, where before we thought trees moving onto tundra would increase carbon storage it seems the opposite may be true. So, more bad news for climate change.”
    At least one other has pointed out that the release of CO2 is from incompletely decomposed plant material that once grew there. Therefore the situation is, we are approaching previous warmth, not unprecedented. This is supposed to be “more bad news for climate change”. What fantasy world do these people live in?

  42. SasjaL says:

    I say, back to what it once was! The tree line has been much further north in the past … Existing (frozen) trees findings should be known by the involved so-called “scholars” [sarc] or does it count as “the rotten apple in the basket” linked to selective science (aka religion) [/sarc]. It has not been a problem before, so why now? (If one can’t adapt – then it’s a problem, not otherwise …)

    Furthermore, the Scandinavian tundra is different from the Russian and North American ones. We have a much warmer climate here, thanks to the Gulf Stream … In Scandinavia (eg. Fennoscandia), we have nine (sic!) different climatic zones, including a alpine zone, however, no arctic zone (as Antero Järvinen mentioned above). This should the above mentioned “scholars” also know …

    Saaad says:
    June 18, 2012 at 3:34 am

    This will definitely affect both the environment and the climate at the same time …

  43. jmotivator says:

    Well, there you have it…. we much cut down all the trees. Problem solved.

  44. Mike M says:

    RobertInAz says:.. So it is likely the trees have already visited the regions of concern and then retreated during this interglacial.

    Retreated and or got buried when the snow started failing to completely melt in the summer. Ancient forests that were buried are now being exposed by some retreating glaciers. Oh noes, the bugs are going to eat all that newly exposed ancient preserved wood releasing more CO2 and then it will get even warmer and the oceans will release more CO2 and there will be more water vapor to make it even warmer and little babies will die and …. oh wait…. the reason all that didn’t happen the last time around was???

  45. Keith says:

    “Bad news for global warming”, eh? Sounds like good news for global warming if what the “scientists have revealed” is true. Calling it bad is shifting the target of the news and making a value-judgment; very scientific stuff.

    Only in a twisted mind could trees not be green. Maybe it was an in-joke all along that the use of the word by enlightened globalist environmentalists was meant in its description of the naiveté of the useful idiot, not colour.

    Oh, and note the use of the word “revealed”, rather than “claimed”, as a paper dampening the hysteria would be described by Richard Black, for example.

  46. richard M says:

    “The Arctic is getting greener as plant growth increases in response to a warmer climate”

    I would like to see this statement quantified as it’s broad brush is foundational to this….study.

  47. Smokey says:

    From the article:

    The Arctic is getting greener as plant growth increases in response to a warmer climate more harmless, beneficial CO2.

    There. Fixed.

  48. SteveSadlov says:

    In which specific locations is the Arctic getting greener? Is it greener than 1970? Greener than 1930? Greener than 1850?

  49. What a nonsense… During the previous warmer interglacial, forests were growing up to the Arctic Ocean in Alaska and Siberia with temperatures 5-10 degr.C higher than now. Probably most if not all permafrost melted away and the Arcticwas at least in summer completely icefree… CO2 levels were 300-310 ppmv and CH4 levels maximum 700 ppbv. So where is the problem?

  50. Billy Liar says:

    Apart from the fact that the science is settled …

    It is yet to be seen whether this observed pattern is confined to certain soil conditions and colonising tree species, or whether the carbon stocks in the soils of other arctic or alpine ecosystems may be vulnerable to colonisation by new plant communities as the climate continues to warm.

    … nothing ever seems to be settled in climate science.

  51. tty says:

    This is a very strange paper, since there is actually very little real tundra in Sweden. The treeless areas in the mountains are typically montane heath, but with little or no permafrost.
    There may however be another reason for this “discovery” at this particular time. Sweden’s main (state-owned) mining company LKAB is planning a large increase in production of iron ore which will of course mean more CO2 “pollution”, and has suggested that rather than buying more CO2 emission rights on the EU-market they should spread fertilizer on the very slow-growing and nutrient-poor forests in northern Sweden (with the enthusiastic approval of the landowners). The forests would then grow faster and absorb far more CO2 than emitted by LKAB in addition to producing additional timber and biofuel, but the idea has been fiercely resisted by EU environment bureaucrats.
    This is very likely paid-for “research”.

  52. djaces says:

    Tundra terrains have higher levels carbon sequestered in the ground because it is too cold for biomass decomposition to keep up with annual production. Forests only exist where it is warm enough for production and decomposition to approach a balance. But, by the sterling logic of these yaboos, it is the trees that are to blame for the difference in carbon levels in the soils. It is definitely hard to argue with those kind of intellectual powerhouses.

  53. Gail Combs says:

    tty says:
    June 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    This is a very strange paper, since there is actually very little real tundra in Sweden. The treeless areas in the mountains are typically montane heath, but with little or no permafrost.
    There may however be another reason for this “discovery” at this particular time…..
    __________________________________
    Thanks for the inside story. Ain’t Politics grand?

  54. Gary Hladik says:

    Mike M says (June 18, 2012 at 5:50 am): “Ummm, the machines are real.”

    But do you have a model that runs on solar? :-)

  55. John Robertson says:

    I read up on Tree Line levels a year or two ago, and most research up to around 2008 seemed to indicate that the tree line had not shifted north.
    Perhaps I am mistaken, but as the above paper does not speak to the supposedly advancing (necessary for their hypothesis to be correct) tree line that I would question its research in how it ascertains that the arctic is greening any more than it has been lately.
    Did I miss something?

  56. John Robertson says:

    A published study showing the Holocene treeline was higher than current. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1782/ about 9,000 years ago. Anther story on Holocene beingwarmer than today (about 3.5C warmer) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111214094650.htm
    Now another paper talking about how tree ring growth stopped following temperature rise around 1950, but that wood density is making up for it (shorter growth years would seem to lead to denser wood – but what do I know) http://eyeonthearctic.rcinet.ca/en/news/usa/97-environment/1385-rising-temperatures-affecting-alaskas-treeline
    Paywall treeline article that would be interesting to readhttp://accessscience.com/abstract.aspx?id=YB061230&referURL=http%3a%2f%2faccessscience.com%2fcontent.aspx%3fid%3dYB061230
    So, if the treeline was higher and further north 9,000 years ago, how much carbon could actually have been stored in the Arctic tundra between then and now, that would be at risk of being released, if (somehow) we gained the 3.5 extra degrees needed to match temperatures found then?

  57. David A. Evans says:

    cui bono says:
    June 18, 2012 at 4:37 am

    I look back on those Thunderbirds clips and now see them as anti technology.,so how long has this really been going on?

    DaveE.

  58. Mark says:

    Richdo says:

    “…the researchers found that the birch trees appeared to be stimulating the decomposition of soil organic matter.”

    Well of course they do. co2 is their primary food; more is better. Not surprising that they’d have evolved mechanisms to stimulate it’s release into a useable form. Seems the trees are smarter than the “climate scientists” studying them.

    The obvious question to ask would be “What’s the optimal level of carbon dioxide for the tree species in question?” The most likely reason for ignoring this question is that the answer is several times greater than that which the “scientists” think is “too much”.
    No doubt an actual scientist would be more interested in what appears to be a mutualistic relationship between trees and soil organisms which decompose organic matter in the soil

  59. Bill Tuttle says:

    richard M says:
    June 18, 2012 at 9:01 am
    “The Arctic is getting greener as plant growth increases in response to a warmer climate”
    I would like to see this statement quantified as it’s broad brush is foundational to this….study.

    Here y’go: “The robust projections of our models suggest that the Arctic is probably getting quantifiably, catastrophically greener as plant growth is likely to increase in a possible response to what we can say with a high probability is a warmer climate.”

  60. Bill Tuttle says:

    Mark says:
    June 20, 2012 at 12:05 am
    No doubt an actual scientist would be more interested in what appears to be a mutualistic relationship between trees and soil organisms which decompose organic matter in the soil.

    It’s more likely ro be a result of the tree roots aerating the soil by displacement, which allows the aerobic bacteria in the soil to get to work releasing the nutrients the trees need.

Comments are closed.