California's giant redwoods inconveniently respond to increased carbon dioxide

In all of California, there is no greater shrine to nature than the giant redwoods of the Northern California. WUWT readers may remember this article which talks about the threat to giant redwoods, due to a supposed global warming induced lack of coastal fog, which these trees need as part of their life cycle:

One more thing to worry about – fog shortage

From the University of California – Berkeley via Eurekalert:

Fog has declined in past century along California’s redwood coast

Analysis of hourly airport cloud cover reports leads to surprising finding

California’s coastal fog has decreased significantly over the past 100 years, potentially endangering coast redwood trees dependent on cool, humid summers, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

Of course, like some “climate denial” video our friend Peter Sinclair might edit, the fog research conclusion was soon shown to be a “crock” in itself:

Last summer the San Francisco Chronicle carried a story about research on fog and climate with a different conclusion:

The Bay Area just had its foggiest May in 50 years. And thanks to global warming, it’s about to get even foggier. That’s the conclusion of several state researchers, whose soon-to-be-published study predicts that even with average temperatures on the rise, the mercury won’t be soaring everywhere.

Well, now the same scientist that published the fog decline story has spawned another story in the San Francisco Chronicle that flies in the face of his earlier study.

Click image for the news story

Here are some excerpts from the story:

The $2.5 million Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative has allowed Sillett and other specialists from Humboldt State and UC Berkeley to set up shop in some of California’s last remaining old-growth redwood groves. The researchers are climbing, poking, prodding, measuring and testing everything, including molecules of coast redwood and giant sequoia trees on 16 research plots throughout the ancient trees’ geographic range.

The plan is to chart the health of the trees over time and use laboratory analysis of carbon and oxygen isotopes to figure out how the trees have reacted in the past to climate and weather conditions.

“Embedded in this tree ring is a remarkable record of climate,” said Todd Dawson, the director of the Center for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry at UC Berkeley, as he held up a core sample from a Montgomery Woods redwood. “Based on what has happened in the past, we can really project what will happen in the future.”

This was interesting:

Laboratory testing of tree-ring data is now so advanced that scientists can determine things like whether tree growth in a certain year was the result of fog or precipitation. Scientists intend to plot biological changes in redwood tree rings dating back 1,000 to 2,000 years, with particular emphasis on effects that might have been caused by the industrial revolution.

I assume then, that they have fog and and precipitation measurement records spanning 1000-2000 years that allow them to verify this?

Here’s where the older fog research and the newer tree ring studies collide with our current climate, bold emphasis mine:

Redwood studies thus far have come up with some confounding results. Redwood trees are known to thrive on summer fog, and it was believed that they grew more slowly as they aged, but studies by Sillett and others show redwood growth increasing, in some cases doubling, over the past century. That’s despite a 33 percent decrease in the amount of fog along the Northern California coast since the early 20th century, according to a study by Dawson.

Anthony Ambrose, a postdoctoral research fellow at the UC Berkeley department of integrative biology, said the growth spurt could be the result of more sunlight and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which generally increases plant growth.

“Maybe it is because there is a CO{-2} increase while there is still enough moisture,” Ambrose said.

This incovenient finding doesn’t bode well for the people (Peter Sinclair, Joe Romm) pushing: The “CO2 is Plant Food” Crock.

But just in case you think this is just another argument among friends over a few tree rings,  I’ll remind readers of this story:

Surprise: Earths’ Biosphere is Booming, Satellite Data Suggests CO2 the Cause

The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA satellite data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square metre of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.

Yeah, damned inconvenient these findings.

Now that California voters have reaffirmed their commitment to CARB’s favorite AB32 law reducing CO2 emissions, I’m waiting for the inevitable lawsuit from the Sierra Club which will argue that reducing CO2 will hurt the giant redwoods. It is after all, what the Sierra Club does.

h/t to Steve Mosher

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John M

Louise is checking with her Community College Professor for guidance, but in the meantime, let me fill in for her.
Anthony, how much is the Chronicle paying you for this shameless shilling of their newspaper?
REPLY: Heh, you must be laboring under the misconception that newspapers are flush with money these days – Anthony

grayman

I wish they would make up their minds

Gary

Redwoods, as a long-lived species, is certainly worth studying. The problem is that researchers are coming at them with an agenda. The likelihood of confirmation bias is high. Let’s see a comprehensive analysis of the whole ecosystem’s biological, geological, and chemical spheres before proclaiming any conclusions about causes.

old44

“even with average temperatures on the rise, the mercury won’t be soaring everywhere.”
At an intersection on the Eyre Hwy in Sth Australia there is a sign to “Somewhere Else”, is that where the warming is?

captainfish

In that vein, Anthony, how much are the Redwood Trees paying you for this shameless shilling of their forest!?!?

Grumpy old Man

I’m waiting for the “giant redwoods are outgrowing their strength as a result of too much CO2, scientists believe.” stories to surface.

Ken Harvey

I hope that the EPA doesn’t read The Chronicle or the authors could be in for a rough time.

I took this as possibly advocating for old growth trees being better at carbon sequestration than young growth. Therefore old growth must not be cut because then cutting old growth contributed to AGW. So, besides AGW advocates conflating logging with deforestation they would say that old growth is critical to preventing climate change and a crime against humanity.
I’m sure that’s just me seeing this as a forester.

H.R.

With all the tourism to the trees, you’d certainly expect there to be a local increase in CO2. I’m waiting for some true believer to ask for signs requiring people to hold their breath while in the redwoods, but I won’t hold my breath ;o)

P Walker

Do you think that these so-called climate scientists will ever realize that continually contradicting themselves does nothing to enhance their credibility ?

old44

“more sunlight and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which generally increases plant growth.”
Quick, someone alert the world’s farmers.

pat

This is one of the greatest ‘doh’ stories of all time. I must admit i was a bit alarmed with the initial fog story. Since Los Angeles was experiencing fog this summer that exceeded 10 miles inland I was confused as to why Northern California had so little. And i was also alarmed that for the life of me I could not understand why more sunshine and CO2, and a relatively wet period resulted in redwood die-off. So now we know. It was all BS.
On a related note, during the Great Depression, redwoods were planted as an experiment in a reforestation effort on the Island of Kauai . They were one of a dozen or so ‘desirable’ species planted in groves to test compatibility and self-propagation. Some of these turned out less that desirable. Slash Pine and some Eucalyptus turned out to be really scary fire hazards. The redwoods were planted at about the 3,500 elevation. They grew. Fast. At a pace some estimate may be 5 times faster than in Ca. They reproduce slowly, so are not a significant threat to native flora. They are beautiful trees, but still babies by Ca. standards. And growth has slowed down dramatically as they aged. They have weathered numerous hurricanes well and a are very positive feature of Kokee State Park.

Bernie McCune

It is interesting how Sinclair’s movie mocks Lord Monckton -“CO2 is what? It is plant food!” But fortunately for all of us, Lord Monckton is exactly right and nothing in the movie indicates otherwise. Also even though the movie is generally reasonable and does state many facts, Sinclair and many scientists mistake weather for climate. The last 30 years is only the warm half of a 60 year climate cycle and the movie continues to state that “these warming trends are EXPECTED to continue”. Much of warming science today follows this same thread – “warming of 3 or 4 degrees C will cause ____ (fill in the blank)” for some extreme and negative outcome. The first problem is that even if warming does continue it cannot be shown that based on past patterns that more than about another degree of warming will probably occur by 2100. And secondly, very few studies have focused on the positive aspects of slight warming. And finally most of the latest studies show no long term extreme weather effects over the past 100 years. There have certainly been extreme weather events but they are part of a natural climate pattern that more and more shows a 60 year cycle (and apparently is now beginning to proceed into a cooling part of that cycle) .
All good propaganda movies seem quite reasonable until you dig a little deeper into the material.

Well, it’s better than we thought, and it’s worse than we thought. All at the same time.
Finally, fair and balanced climate reporting. More, More. Bring it on!

Golf Charley

CO2 should lawyer up and sue the EPA for defamation

Sam Hall

“more sunlight and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which generally increases plant growth.”
generally ? When do those two factors not increase plant growth?

FerdinandAkin

The true believes in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming will quickly spin this by claiming this “rapid and unnatural growth, induced by the known greenhouse gas CO2, will enervate the trees and they will all die.”
Actual data collected in the field will not sway a true believer; facts and data simply increase the rate of angular rotation.

Dave Springer

“Redwood studies thus far have come up with some confounding results. Redwood trees are known to thrive on summer fog, and it was believed that they grew more slowly as they aged, but studies by Sillett and others show redwood growth increasing, in some cases doubling, over the past century. That’s despite a 33 percent decrease in the amount of fog along the Northern California coast since the early 20th century, according to a study by Dawson.”
Confounding? To a botanist?
Who ARE these people? Higher CO2 concentration causes more efficient use of water. I’ve explained it many times here. Gas exchange is carried out through microscopic pores called stomata. Stomata iris open and closed as required and the mechanism that controls the opening is referred to as the closest thing to a muscle that plants have. When there is a higher concentration of CO2 in the air the gas exchange happens faster and the stomata don’t need to open as far or as often. Water is lost when the stomata is open.
Thus it makes perfect sense that Redwoods would prosper in higher CO2 even if there less moisture available.

Wijnand

I have a genuine question, as an interested civilian: if increased CO2 levels contribute to increased plant growth, then the treerings generated are also larger. So how come those famous tree-ring proxies are called an indicator of temperature?

CO2 is harmless and beneficial:
click1
click2 [see “Key Findings”]
click3 [they claim faster growth is due to “ozone.” But it’s a C: BS article]]
click4
click5
In a hungry world, more CO2 is better.

Wijnand says:
“I have a genuine question, as an interested civilian: if increased CO2 levels contribute to increased plant growth, then the treerings generated are also larger. So how come those famous tree-ring proxies are called an indicator of temperature?”
Good question.

Curiousgeorge

It’s not just redwoods. Here in the Deep South, where many farmers (me included ) have acres planted in pine, cedar, maple, hickory, oak, and other hard and soft woods , those are growing faster also. This is not necessarily a good thing, since fast growth woods are generally less desirable than slow growing and hence denser wood. Denser wood is stronger, more stable, higher quality, and therefore more desirable ( and pricier ) for construction, furniture, musical instruments, etc. than fast growth. Fast growth wood is generally not good for much other than pulp, fiber board, and other cheap products – or converting to ethanol, which is another disaster story.

Dave Springer

Sam Hall says:
November 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

“more sunlight and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which generally increases plant growth.”
generally ? When do those two factors not increase plant growth?

Where there other limiting factors like insufficient nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to name the major nutrients. Also micronutrients like sulphur, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, molybdenum, and iron can be limiting factors although these are usually only a problem in seawater. Just off the top of my head. On land it’s usually the big three (NPK – the primary listed ingredients on virtually all fertilizers) where deficiency is common along with insufficient (or too much!) water. pH can also be a limiting factor.

Matt

I got one in my garden 🙂 Brought it home from there like 25 years ago, moved it twice in the early years. There’s no fog where I live, but it grows like a champ. It’s my little baby, I take pics every year. The neighbors already start bickering because it obstructs their view.

Conifers have stomata? Guess so. Something I should have known.
A quick check found http://www.savetheredwoods.org/research/grant_detail.php?id=35 which sound uncomfortably close to whale saving, but it links to a master thesis at http://www.savetheredwoods.org/media/pdf_jennings.pdf . On think in the thesis I hadn’t realized is that redwood leaves change greatly between low level and high level leaves. On the east coast, red oaks are one of my favorite examples, and is largely driven by sunlight and probably transpiration. In redwoods, tree height and water management have a big roll, and that appears to affect leaf morphology.
My guess is that redwoods can adapt across a few seasons a lot better than any of the hand wringers expect.
Neat trees. I’d hate to have one fall on my house, though.

DesertYote

“The $2.5 million Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative has allowed Sillett and other specialists from Humboldt State and UC Berkeley to set up shop in some of California’s last remaining old-growth redwood groves. ”
There is no way this research could be agenda driven, could it?
BTW, I really like the “… California’s last remaining old-growth redwood groves. ” part. The spin left me more dizzy then a ride at a county fair.

When the Grant situation changes, he changes his facts.

Darell C. Phillips

It looks as if “Big Trees” are a supporter of “Big Oil” now. Oh, the irony.

I will refrain from mocking the “researchers” because of my innate kindness. But I must point out that human beings have been living in and amongst the redwoods for at least 10,000 years and probably much longer. Anthropogenic influences, including deliberate burning, has not extirpated the species. See:
http://westinstenv.org/histwl/2009/09/08/a-500-year-record-of-fire-from-a-humid-coast-redwood-forest/

How do you get a tree ring without murdering the tree?

DirkH

Ken Roberts says:
November 27, 2010 at 11:50 am
“How do you get a tree ring without murdering the tree?”
Duct tape.

@Ken Roberts,
“How do you get a tree ring without murdering the tree?”
A coring drill known as an “increment borer” is used. The result–a cylindrical piece of the tree with its rings–should be familiar since it’s similar to the cores obtained from glaciers and ice sheets. If you hit the pith (year one of that ring) you can tell how old the tree is at that height (the closer to the ground, the closer to seedling stage).
Here’s a picture of the increment borer and the tree ring core: http://forestry.about.com/od/dendrochronology/ss/tree_age_4.htm
For more, see about.com:
http://forestry.about.com/od/dendrochronology/ss/tree_age.htm

Jimash

“How do you get a tree ring without murdering the tree?”
They use something like a thin reaming tool that extracts a sideways core .
How the tree feels about that I couldn’t tell you.

K

Would this growth be considered rotten growth akin to the [alleged] rotten ice in the arctic? 😉

amabo

I agree with captainfish!
Anthony needs to get of the redwood cool-aid money and stop supporting the ‘large tree’ agenda. How much is your soul worth, mr Watts? Stop shilling out to big forest!

David A. Evans

old44 says:
November 27, 2010 at 9:48 am
No mate. On the road from Beamish to Stanley there’s a sign to ‘No Place’, (54.874018,-1.66484), also see…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Place
That’s where the warmening must be!
DaveE.

Note that the longest increment corer made is 30 inches. Theoretically that could reach the pith (center) of a 60-inch-diameter tree. But the older redwoods are as much as 12 feet (144 inches) in diameter or larger, so an increment corer can’t get close to the pith. Furthermore, the extracted core is a single radial line, more or less, and doesn’t capture the variation in ring widths if the tree is not perfectly round with the pith in the exact center (and they never are).
The best method is to cut the tree down with a chain saw, slice off a “cookie”, and analyze that. Of course, that’s just a single sample. For multiple samples it’s best to cut down multiple trees.
Which isn’t going to happen. Hence the sampling will be sparse at best.
And there is absolutely no reason to believe that “climate change” affects redwood diameter growth. Stand density is much more of a factor and masks any climate effect. Recall that the Yamal proxy larches grow at the limit of where trees can grow, and hence are considered “sensitive” to climate perturbations. That is manifestly NOT true of redwoods.

David A. Evans says:
November 27, 2010 at 3:16 pm

No mate. On the road from Beamish to Stanley there’s a sign to ‘No Place’, (54.874018,-1.66484), also see…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Place

Not far from me is the town of Weare, New Hampshire. I’ve always thought there should be a clothing store in the northern part of town. They could advertise “He’s a real No. Weare man….”

Don E

I believe that with the cooling PDO the fog is starting to increase again. The researchers only looked at airport data for the last 50 years. The Pacific got warmer most of that time.

red432

Earth First!
(we’ll log the other planets later)
(seen on a bumper sticker)

1DandyTroll

@Ken Roberts
‘How do you get a tree ring without murdering the tree?’
Quiet as a mouse that could sing you steal in during dead night, shrouded in fog, you rob ’em all blind. Come morning, when the warm laser rays from the sun all but burns the puny little water droplets to cinders and gas the dead wood of the redwood still wont see a thing.

Douglas DC

pat says:
November 27, 2010 at 10:36 am
Eucalyptus! As a veteran firefighter of the Aerial kind, I get cold willies whenever I
think of that blasted Australian gasoline plant. The Oakland fire cones to mind. I had one in my front yard when the big freeze of ’88-89 hit I was so glad to take my Sthil to that
thing (at least when it was dead my wife wouldn’t have second thoughts.)

Mike D. says:
November 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Note that the longest increment corer made is 30 inches. Theoretically that could reach the pith (center) of a 60-inch-diameter tree. But the older redwoods are as much as 12 feet (144 inches) in diameter or larger, so an increment corer can’t get close to the pith.

There are larger corers, but they take a wider core, but it means they reliably reach the pith. For example, see http://www.usatourist.com/english/maillist/archive/0707.html#1

Sam Hall

Dave Springer says:
November 27, 2010 at 11:26 am
Sam Hall says:
November 27, 2010 at 10:47 am
“more sunlight and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which generally increases plant growth.”
generally ? When do those two factors not increase plant growth?
Where there other limiting factors like insufficient nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to name the major nutrients. (snip)
OK, If the tree growth is being limited by, say, insufficient nitrogen, then the amount of sunlight and CO2 make no difference?

David A. Evans

Ric Werme says:
November 27, 2010 at 4:12 pm
No Weare man, very funny 😀
The thing about No Place is you won’t find it named on any map I know of. Nor will you find it under its more official name of Co-operative Villas, so I guess it really is “No Place”
One thing as an aside. Apart from the “Sur”real Climate April 1st post a couple of years back, I’ve never seen the same level of humour on a consensus site.
DaveE.

Thanks Anthony.

crosspatch

The forests are in better shape on both coasts and the upper Midwest than they were at the turn of the century when they were almost completely razed for lumber. There are more trees growing on the plains than there ever were in the Holocene. Same goes for the desert Southwest.
The coastal mountains of Northern California were nearly completely stripped of trees following the 1906 San Francisco quake to provide lumber for rebuilding the city. Those forests have now recovered.
I would venture a guess that there are currently more trees in the US than there were when Europeans first arrived. How many trees do you think there were where Grand Island, Nebraska is now when settlers first came? Zoom into the town and notice how many trees there are per block.

phlogiston

The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA satellite data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square metre of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.
It is hardly surprising that increased atmospheric CO2 boosts photosynthesis and plant production. If it is confirmed that CO2 increase is indeed causing a “greening of the planet” then it points to a probably negative climate feedback of CO2. More CO2 = more plant photosyntheses = more plant transpiration = more recycling of ground water to the atmosphere = accelerated hydrological cycle, more clouds, climatic cooling.
In general the climatic effect of CO2 may well turn out to be about biology, not physics. The biosphere, especially vegetation, has a profound influence on climate (Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis is largely valid). Changes in trace levels of CO2 will likely exert a larger effect on climate via their effects on vegetation, than via physical radiation balance effects. And feedback from CO2 to atmospheric water vapour will be positive for this reason – and the temperature feedback thus negative; the biology trumps the physics.
So climate is as much biology as physics (I would say that – as a biologist!)
BTW some nay-sayers to CO2 affecting photosynthesis point to lab experiments showing failure of plants to exploit increasing CO2 – although oddly this hasn’t stopped farmers increasing CO2 in greenhouses. However this argument fails to understand biology; a plant might be proximally adapted to a CO2 level experienced in the “recent” past – i.e. a few 10^4-5 years. However in a real ecosystem genetic variation and natural selection mean that, with in creasing CO2 levels, plants will pretty quickly adapt to exploit then – at the level of species and ecosystem if not the individual. Have a look at stomatal densities on leaves – will these change over a decadal – century timescale?

crosspatch

“BTW some nay-sayers to CO2 affecting photosynthesis point to lab experiments showing failure of plants to exploit increasing CO2”
It greatly depends on the sort of plant. Conifers, for example, seem to do very well with increased CO2 while hardwoods don’t show as much difference.
If my gut is correct, we should begin to see the increase in atmospheric CO2 begin to flatten out. As the biosphere responds to the increased CO2 production of the past few decades, it should begin taking more CO2 out through invigorated growth. So you should see an increase in the removal of CO2. So the more CO2 increases, the harder it should become to further increase it.
Another thing I suspect we should see is conifer encroaching on what had been hardwood stands. I believe I might already be seeing evidence of this in Northern California where I now see a carpet of baby Douglass fir trees in stands of madrone. A Duke University study noted a 10x increase in viable seed production from white pine exposed to 2x the normal atmospheric ambient CO2. That is a huge explosion of seed production and could reverse canopy progression in some areas with this explosion of pine seedlings keeping hardwoods out of certain areas.
I would also be interested in the state of certain Araucaria forests in Patagonia and how they might have changed over the past 20 years. I suspect the Araucaria species are especially likely to benefit from increased CO2 as that genus evolved when CO2 levels were much higher than today. Same with ginkos.

Dave F

Not the only interesting Cali discovery recently, it seems.
http://news.discovery.com/earth/deep-sea-lava-climate.html