Shock news: trees grow better in a warmer climate with more carbon dioxide

The geniuses at Columbia University’s Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory have discovered Liebigs Law of the Minimum. The tree researcher exclaims: “I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures,”…“What we found was a surprise.”

Trees on Tundra’s Border Are Growing Faster in a Hotter Climate

Measuring Techniques Improve—But the Implications Are Not Certain

Trees in Alaska’s far north are growing faster than they were a hundred years ago says a study led by Lamont-Doherty scientist Laia Andreu-Hayles.

Image: Trees in Alaska’s far north are growing faster than they were a hundred years ago says a study led by Lamont-Doherty scientist Laia Andreu-Hayles. Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Evergreen trees at the edge of Alaska’s tundra are growing faster, suggesting that at least some forests may be adapting to a rapidly warming climate, says a new study.

While forests elsewhere are thinning from wildfires, insect damage and droughts partially attributed to global warming, some white spruce trees in the far north of Alaska have grown more vigorously in the last hundred years, especially since 1950, the study has found. The health of forests globally is gaining attention, because trees are thought to absorb a third of all industrial carbon emissions, transferring carbon dioxide into soil and wood. The study, in the journal Environmental Research Letters, spans 1,000 years and bolsters the idea that far northern ecosystems may play a future role in the balance of planet-warming carbon dioxide that remains in the air. It also strengthens support for an alternative technique for teasing climate data from trees in the far north, sidestepping recent methodological objections from climate skeptics.

“I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures,” said study lead author Laia Andreu-Hayles, a tree ring scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “What we found was a surprise.”

Members of the Lamont Tree-Ring Lab have traveled repeatedly to Alaska, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this past summer. In an area where the northern treeline gives way to open tundra, the scientists removed cores from living white spruces, as well as long-dead partially fossilized trees preserved under the cold conditions. In warm years, trees tend to produce wider, denser rings and in cool years, the rings are typically narrower and less dense. Using this basic idea and samples from a 2002 trip to the refuge, Andreu-Hayles and her colleagues assembled a climate timeline for Alaska’s Firth River region going back to the year 1067. They discovered that both tree-ring width and density shot up starting a hundred years ago, and rose even more after 1950. Their findings match a separate team’s study earlier this year that used satellite imagery and tree rings to also show that trees in this region are growing faster, but that survey extended only to 1982.

The added growth is happening as the arctic faces rapid warming. While global temperatures since the 1950s rose 1.6 degrees F, parts of the northern latitudes warmed 4 to 5 degrees F. “For the moment, warmer temperatures are helping the trees along the tundra,” said study coauthor Kevin Anchukaitis, a tree-ring scientist at Lamont. “It’s a fairly wet, fairly cool, site overall, so those longer growing seasons allow the trees to grow more.”

Researchers have traveled to the Alaskan treeline repeatedly. Lamont tree-ring scientist Kevin Anchukaitis (left) and Fairbanks arctic ecologist Angela Allen sample a dead spruce.

Researchers have traveled to the Alaskan treeline repeatedly. Lamont tree-ring scientist Kevin Anchukaitis (left) and Fairbanks arctic ecologist Angela Allen sample a dead spruce. Credit: Lamont-Doherty

The outlook may be less favorable for the vast interior forests that ring the Arctic Circle. Satellite images have revealed swaths of brown, dying vegetation and a growing number of catastrophic wildfires in the last decade across parts of interior Alaska, Canada and Russia. Evidence suggests forests elsewhere are struggling, too. In the American West, bark beetles benefitting from milder winters have devastated millions of acres of trees weakened by lack of water. A 2009 study in the journal Science found that mortality rates in once healthy old-growth conifer forests have doubled in the past few decades. Heat and water stress are also affecting some tropical forests already threatened by clear-cutting for farming and development.

Another paper in Science recently estimated that the world’s 10 billion acres of forest are now absorbing about a third of carbon emissions, helping to limit carbon dioxide levels and keep the planet cooler than it would be otherwise.

There are already signs that the treeline is pushing north, and if this continues, northern ecosystems will change. Warming temperatures have benefitted not only white spruce, the dominant treeline species in northwestern North America, but also woody deciduous shrubs on the tundra, which have begun shading out other plants as they expand their range. As habitats change, scientists are asking whether insects, migratory songbirds, caribou and other animals that have evolved to exploit the tundra environment will adapt. “Some of these changes will be ecologically beneficial, but others may not,” said Natalie Boelman, an ecologist at Lamont-Doherty who is studying the effects of climate change in the Alaskan tundra.

In another finding, the study strengthens scientists’ ability to use tree rings to measure past climate. Since about 1950, tree ring widths in some northern locations have stopped varying in tandem with temperature, even though modern instruments confirm that temperatures are on a steady rise. As scientists looked for ways to get around the problem, critics of modern climate science dismissed the tree ring data as unreliable and accused scientists of cooking up tricks to support the theory of global warming. The accusations came to a head when stolen mails discussing the discrepancy between tree-ring records and actual temperatures came to light during the so-called “Climategate” episode of 2009-10.

The fact that temperatures were rising was never really in dispute among scientists, who had thermometers as well as tree rings to confirm the trend. But still scientists struggled with how to correct for the so-called “divergence problem.’’ The present study adds support for another proxy for tree growth: ring density. Trees tend to produce cells with thicker walls at the end of the growing season, forming a dark band of dense wood. While tree-ring width in some places stops correlating with temperature after 1950, possibly due to moisture stress or changes in seasonality due to warming, tree ring density at the site studied continues to track temperature.

“This is methodologically a big leap forward that will allow scientists to go back to sites sampled in the past and fill in the gaps,” said Glenn Juday, a forest ecologist at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who was not involved in the study. The researchers plan to return to Alaska and other northern forest locations to improve geographical coverage and get more recent records from some sites. They are also investigating the use of stable isotopes to extract climate information from tree rings.

Other authors of the study include Rosanne D’Arrigo, Lamont-Doherty; Pieter Beck and Scott Goetz, Woods Hole Research Center and David Frank, Swiss Federal Research Institute. The study received funding from the Swiss and US national science foundations.

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duncan binks

I’m surprised they were surprised! No, really, I was!

pat

Apparently the equatorial regions of the planet are unknown to these folks. They should get out more. Maybe take a trip to Hawaii.

Marek

Really, these people are retarded, more food CO2 and more energy(solar ) and they are suprised then trees grown faster ??

Gator

Maybe we should get the onto that Grant’s Tomb conundrum!

Jeremy

The tree researcher exclaims: “I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures,”…“What we found was a surprise.”

Holy cow, has that researcher *never* planted a garden? Has she never heard of paleontologists describe the various times of the dinosaurs and how plants did in warmer temperatures back then?
Seriously, what-the-****… How can you call yourself a researcher and be surprised by this? the only explanation I can see is that you would have to have swallowed all the alarmism about AGW hook-line-and-sinker.

So that tree moaning moaning hippy video needs to be subtitled, as a translation from the Post Darwinian Giaian dialect.
Offer a translation that the Greenies are secretly crying out for more heat and co2/carbon, and the stupid scientists are not hearing her cry in the wilderness.
Sort of like the ex-german leader Bunker video keeps getting subtitled.

KD

How can anyone publish this drivel with a straight face? Honestly. How can the media not ridicule such utter nonsense?

That’s chemical kinetics — the second point indicated by Arrhenius on CO2!
(carbon fix rate) = (rate constant) * (CO2 concentration)
rate constant = (pre-exponential factor) * exp[-(activation energy)/(gas constant * temperature)]
That’s how CO2 and temperature work!

Pamela Gray

One should also consider logging practices. These are my opinions but they are based on the reports of loggers and forest managers who represent a long history of feet on the ground logging practices. Logging opens up tree stands allowing for better response to favorable and even unfavorable conditions. Natural fires do the same thing. However, after the logging boom ended, increased fire suppression and decreased logging resulted in dense stands, slowing growth as competition for nutrients and sunlight increased. Any kind of use of tree ring data; IE width, cell density, etc, will be fraught with variables (some natural, some anthropogenic) other than temperature.

Cassio

“As scientists looked for ways to get around the problem …”
Surely “As scientists sought to understand the discrepancy by undertaking further research …” ?
“… stolen mails …”
Surely “mails released into the public domain” ?
This puff hardly inspires confidence in the integrity of the research.

FerdinandAkin

I’m shocked, SHOCKED!

Kelvin Vaughan

duncan binks says:
November 11, 2011 at 9:01 am
I’m surprised they were surprised! No, really, I was!
I’m surprised your suprised they were surprised!

David Jay

And the Woods Hole “Research Center” is part of the team – THAT’S reassuring!

old44

I am presently looking for a $18,000,000 government grant to enable me to study the effects of placing vegetables into a hothouse and feeding them fertiliser and an enhanced CO2 atmosphere. With 6-7 years of experimentation and intensive study in the Mauritius or Lord Howe Island I feel I may be able to confirm the findings of commercial growers.

Allan M

The tree researcher exclaims: “I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures,”…“What we found was a surprise.”
A little bit of common sense would go a long way. But, apparently, it ain’t so common.
I met up with an old friend last year, who did microbiology. He said that he had spent months on end doing nothing but cutting up samples for microscope slides. Now they don’t do any of that. No practical experience! Maybe they imagine the computer screen is sufficient understanding. And the bone-idle academics have spent the intervening years discussing what the students don’t need to learn.

Will these self styled journalist “experts” ever stop this baseless propaganda. The cycle of growth, build up of underbrush, then fire which creates rejuvenation of the forests is well known and widely acknowledged. Yellowstone Park was a good example of well meaning forest rangers pouncing on every little fire breakout until the underbrush got so thick the big one started and they were powerless to control it several years ago. Maybe California will learn this lesson one day but it is very hard to teach the egomaniac californians anything that is why the potentially richest state in the union is bankrupt. Just north in Canada they have a limited fire policy which allows fires to happen naturally, result, sure we have fires but they are limited and they rejuvenate the forests. As usual so much propaganda and misinformation from our illustrious news media.

“Since about 1950, tree ring widths in some northern locations have stopped varying in tandem with temperature, even though modern instruments confirm that temperatures are on a steady rise. As scientists looked for ways to get around the problem, critics of modern climate science dismissed the tree ring data as unreliable and accused scientists of cooking up tricks to support the theory of global warming.”
What “modern instruments” are they talking about? The ones at the local roof tops or tarmacs? I just logged 60 acres, the stumps all show the last 10-12 years with less growth. than previous 20 years or so. I assumed it was colder or some other stress, negating the increase in CO2.
“I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures,”…“What we found was a surprise.”
You have to be kidding. How fast do trees grow in the tropics as apposed to mountain timberlines?

Gator

Can’t wait til they discover the Sun!

Jeremy

“I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures,” said study lead author
At least she admits that she had preconceived religious beliefs.
Perhaps this will raise her awareness to the propaganda she has been living and breathing in our schools and Universities.
It is the same with Polar Bears. Anyone actually willing to go to Churchill, Manitoba and see for themselves will discover that the truth is diametrically opposite to what the CAGW WWF propagandists have been telling everyone. There is at least a FIVE-FOLD increase in Polar Bear populations since the late 70’s and the start of the entire CAGW scare….

mbabbitt

I guess they never had a garden.

Al Gore's Holy Hologram

The only thing that grows better in colder climates is fur, fat deposits and bones.

DesertYote

David Jay
November 11, 2011 at 9:34 am
And the Woods Hole “Research Center” is part of the team – THAT’S reassuring!
###
Beat me to it.

Perhaps they missed the memo that the earth’s biomass is on the rise.

Dave Springer

I’m sure this does come as a surprise to climate boffins. I pretty much consider them to be idiot savants at this point. I’d rather think they are honest imbeciles than evil geniuses for as long as humanly possible.

Hugh Pepper

Most of these comments are simply disrespectful and unworthy of further criticism. It is clear from this research that forests are in the process of dramatic change and it is a stretch to imagine a positive outcome after these changes. Given the host of negative synergies (eg wildfire), we should be very concerned about the prospects for a diminished boreal forest and it’s immense capacity to absorb CO2. Incidentally, these changes can be observed and I encourage your correspondents to make a trip to northern Canada or Alaska.

richard verney

Now remind me why we grow plants in greenhouses. Preferrably with added CO2.
How can these people lack so much commonsense.

John B

“The fact that temperatures were rising was never really in dispute among scientists, who had thermometers as well as tree rings to confirm the trend. But still scientists struggled with how to correct for the so-called “divergence problem.’’ The present study adds support for another proxy for tree growth: ring density. Trees tend to produce cells with thicker walls at the end of the growing season, forming a dark band of dense wood. While tree-ring width in some places stops correlating with temperature after 1950, possibly due to moisture stress or changes in seasonality due to warming, tree ring density at the site studied continues to track temperature.”
Yay! No more need to hide the decline 🙂

G. Karst

It makes one wonder – What kind of education did these “researchers” receive? Perhaps someone should check their credentials. If legit, those institutions, should be closed. GK

P Walker

I agree with Pamela Gray , as usual . Forests in southern Idaho have similar conditions to those in eastern Oregon . Stands of trees become denser , the trees weaken from competition and the bark beetles move in . I lived in Idaho for over twenty years , and have spent most of the last thirty winters there so I don’t buy the idea that milder winters lead to explosions in bark beetle populations . The beetles are always there , and only do serious damage to the weakest trees .

I too am surprised that you and you and you are all surprised they were surprised!

DRE

Does CO2 also increase bear scat in the woods?

JeffC

Hugh Pepper …
anyone who claims to be a “researcher” but is then “suprised” that warmer climates help pine tress grow faster is not a scientist nor a researcher but an ignorant robot simply spouting AGW nonsense. They deserve absolutely no respect because they have not earned it. As far as the rest of your comment, wildfires are not negative “synergies”, whatever that means. They a healthy positive events …

It seems to be a recurring theme that the pro-AGW researchers really do not know anything about what they are talking about. Pamela Gray and others mention above that the government’s severe restrictions on logging may have something to do with the problems, large wildfires and insect infestation, cited by the researchers. And the researchers note tree ring widths and densities varied at different sites, though temperatures didn’t. That alone should make them look for other causes. Where are these people being educated?

Jeff in Calgary

Well, I’m not surprised you were surprised she was surprised they were surprised!

Jeff in Calgary

Did these people really think that these trees grew way up north because they like the cold? They only grow there because they are the only trees strong enough to grow up there. Why they don’t grow down at normal latitudes? Not sure, but may be related to competition.

Steve

The ‘wildwood’ was undergoing Native American silviculture through periodic burns for thousands of years. The Europeans put an end to that, then the Greens started breaking contract with ranchers who previously had been given grazing rights in the national forests (which were for resource management, not wildlife preservation), and the brush grew up allowing for catastrophic wildfires. Pests of course, come in waves, and always have. Monocultures contribute to this, as do other factors, but to attribute this to the proven non-existant AGW without taking these other factors into consideration is unscientific, and either ignorant or fraudulent.

MattN

“Well, I’m not surprised you were surprised she was surprised they were surprised!”
I’m surprised to hear you say that.
In other news, researchers have discoverd that bears actually do crap in the woods….

More Soylent Green!

Hugh Pepper says:
November 11, 2011 at 9:52 am
Most of these comments are simply disrespectful and unworthy of further criticism. It is clear from this research that forests are in the process of dramatic change and it is a stretch to imagine a positive outcome after these changes. Given the host of negative synergies (eg wildfire), we should be very concerned about the prospects for a diminished boreal forest and it’s immense capacity to absorb CO2. Incidentally, these changes can be observed and I encourage your correspondents to make a trip to northern Canada or Alaska.

But won’t more CO2 dampen forest fires? My old Sim Earth model worked that way!

P. Hager

The quote “In the American West, bark beetles benefitting from milder winters have devastated millions of acres of trees weakened by lack of water. A 2009 study in the journal Science found that mortality rates in once healthy old-growth conifer forests have doubled in the past few decades. ” appears above.
As one who lives in one of those forests, The fire and bark beetle problem is a result of over growth and over population. We can’t cut trees and fires are suppressed until the fuel load reaches the point that the fires can not be controlled. Forest thinning is only permitted in alpine urban areas and then it it is limited thinning.
After the bark beetle finished in our area, we the trees were still had 3-5 times as many trees as the forest can safely support. I have trees 8-12 inches in diameter as close as 10 feet apart. On my property the canopy is so thick that no sunlight reaches the forest floor.
Only logging (only trees killed by bark beetles can be cut) or fire (I and hundreds of others would loose our homes) can clear the forest and make it healthy.
The Western forests are not healthy, but it is not warming doing it. It is our forest policy that is killing the trees.

Nomen Nescio

I’ve never seen any one so happy to measure the circumference of a tree as the scientist in the first picture.

Tim Clark

Being the self appointed GOD on all tree related topics, I can’t believe this data until Michael Mann verifies the study’s validity.
\sarc
From a climax vegetation viewpoint, even if the white spruce were stressed because of a “warmer” climate, tree species from lower latitudes would take over. DOH

Kevin Hearle

Forgetting all the imaturity, lack of open minded scientific thought processes and obvious green indoctrination of the authors the possible finding of density as a proxy for temperature is interesting so lets not throw the paper in the green waste just yet.

P.F.

Wasn’t one critique of Michael Mann’s bristle cone pine data that those trees live at the edge of the Alpine environment where temps are subfreezing most of the time, stunting growth? When things warmed, growth increased. Same for Briffa’s Yamal tree ring data set.
Call me crazy, but I’ve seen trees in Alaska where snow and ice surrounded the trees and they stopped growing. When the ice retreated, the trees grew strong. Wait. Isn’t that what happens between winter and summer — growth slows or stops in winter cold and accelerates in summer warmth. So it would go that in warmer climes with sufficient water, trees grow well. They just now discovered that?

WUWT readers have known this for years:
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Greenhouse_Gases.jpg

Hugh Pepper says:
November 11, 2011 at 9:52 am
Most of these comments are simply disrespectful and unworthy of further criticism. It is clear from this research that forests are in the process of dramatic change and it is a stretch to imagine a positive outcome after these changes. Given the host of negative synergies (eg wildfire), we should be very concerned about the prospects for a diminished boreal forest and it’s immense capacity to absorb CO2. Incidentally, these changes can be observed and I encourage your correspondents to make a trip to northern Canada or Alaska.
===================================================
Hugh, you’ve been a regular here long enough to know that forests are always in constant dramatic changes. You are also certainly knowledgeable enough to have already realized that while wildfires do have negative impacts on certain things, they are a necessary process for the health of all forests.
As far as the disrespectful nature of some of the comments, do you blame them? Some researcher finds out something that many skeptics have been saying for years, and the researcher is surprised? Its one thing to find something that hadn’t been thought of before, but the idea that CO2+warmth helps plant growth……….. well, a derisive response is probably as polite as can be expected.

Chuckarama

Any professional greenhouse outfit could tell you that plants like a CO2 level that’s about 12-15% higher than naturally occuring levels are today. That’s why they buy expensive CO2 generators for their operations. One could postulate that it says something about evolution and history as well, but what, I’m not sure yet…

jmrSudbury

Warmer temperatures reduced the stress on the trees? Wow. Did a government grant pay for this? — John M Reynolds

“Most of these comments are simply disrespectful and unworthy of further criticism. It is clear from this research that forests are in the process of dramatic change and it is a stretch to imagine a positive outcome after these changes. Given the host of negative synergies (eg wildfire), we should be very concerned about the prospects for a diminished boreal forest and it’s immense capacity to absorb CO2. Incidentally, these changes can be observed and I encourage your correspondents to make a trip to northern Canada or Alaska.”
First, the only disrespect is our having to tolerate the ineptness spewing from higher ed. Second, don’t be critical of critical thought. Third, there is nothing clear about climate. Fourth, every one here is clear on how CO2 benefits plants. Fifth, there is no host of negative synergies. Sixth, as someone graciously pointed out, biomass is on the rise. Finally, we do not need any trips to Canada or Alaska to opine on or evaluate bunk research.
Oh yes, get a life with a sense of reality and sense of humor. Please. 🙂

Latitude

News flash….
Living things at the edge of their limit….grow better when conditions improve
Film at 11

RockyRoad

Hugh Pepper says:
November 11, 2011 at 9:52 am

Most of these comments are simply disrespectful and unworthy of further criticism.

The first duty of a researcher is to do some research, right? And the very best place they could come would be here at WUWT. Right? I mean, they can’t call themselves “researchers” if they haven’t thoroughly studied and evaluated WUWT.

“…the world’s most viewed climate website”
– Fred Pearce The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth about Global Warming

So would you call these people “researchers” in light of the above?
As of this moment, the Blog Stat here at WUWT is ■94,155,740 views. Apparently, that doesn’t include any of these people or they wouldn’t be “surprised”. And that’s why I call them (and you’re really gonna hate this description ’cause it’s the worst thing I can call them): climscires (not full climate, hence the “clim“; not full scientists, hence the “sci“; and not full researchers, hence the “res“).
Disrespectful? As much as I can occupy it.