Another benefit of climate change and increased CO2 – trees continue to grow at a faster rate

WUWT readers may recall this WUWT story from 2011: The Earth’s biosphere is booming, data suggests that CO2 is the cause, part 2

Image: data from SEAWIFS showing vegetation chlorophyll and change. Source:
Image: data from SEAWIFS showing vegetation chlorophyll and change. Source:

Now there is even more evidence. From From Technische Universität München: Study highlights forest growth trends from 1870 to the present- Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate

“…scientists are putting the growth acceleration down to rising temperatures and the extended growing season. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen are other factors contributing to the faster growth.”

Cynthia Schäfer and Eric Thurm, doctoral candidates at the Chair for Forest Growth and Yield, take a growth ring sample from an experimental plot tree. Cynthia Schäfer and Eric Thurm, doctoral candidates at the Chair for Forest Growth and Yield, take a growth ring sample from an experimental plot tree.
Cynthia Schäfer and Eric Thurm, doctoral candidates at the Chair for Forest Growth and Yield, take a growth ring sample from an experimental plot tree. (Photo: L. Steinacker / TUM)

17.09.2014,  Research news

Trees have been growing significantly faster since the 1960s. The typical development phases of trees and stands have barely changed, but they have accelerated – by as much as 70 percent. This was the outcome of a study carried out by scientists from Technische Universität München (TUM) based on long-term data from experimental forest plots that have been continuously observed since 1870. Their findings were published recently in Nature Communications.


Three decades ago, “forest dieback” was a hot topic, with the very survival of large forest ecosystems seemingly in doubt. But instead of a collapse, the latest studies indicate that forests have actually been growing at a faster rate. Whether, how and why forest stands have changed their growth patterns over the last century are still hotly disputed questions.

This latest study provides some answers. It was based on data from experimental forest plots that have been observed systematically since 1870. This makes them among the oldest forest study sites in the world. The forested areas are also representative of the typical climate and environmental conditions found in Central Europe. “Our findings are based on a unique data pool,” maintains Prof. Hans Pretzsch from TUM’s Chair for Forest Growth and Yield, who headed up the study.

Accelerated growth

In the cases of spruce and beech, respectively the dominant species of coniferous and deciduous trees in Central Europe, the TUM scientists noted significantly accelerated tree growth. Beech trees exhibited a growth rate that was 77 percent faster than in 1960, while the figure for spruce was 32 percent faster. The stand volume growth for beech was 30 percent, and 10 percent for spruce. “The stands as a whole had a lower growth rate than the individual trees essentially because larger trees require more space, hence each stand will have fewer trees,” explains Pretzsch.

The scientists are putting the growth acceleration down to rising temperatures and the extended growing season. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen are other factors contributing to the faster growth. The concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have been rising steadily over the last century. “Interestingly, we observed that acid rain only had a temporary slowing effect on the growth of our experimental plots. Indeed, the input of pollutants started to fall off significantly from the 1970s,” says Pretzsch. “It is true though that only a few of our experimental areas are located in the ridges of the highland mountains where the greatest damage was observed.”

Change requires adaptation

While the trees both grow and age faster, the appearance of the forest does not change as a result. But the same tree and stand sizes are achieved significantly earlier than in the past. This could benefit the forestry industry in that target diameters and the optimal harvest rotation age will be reached sooner. Besides, more wood can be harvested without compromising the principle of sustainability.

At the same time, the altered timescale has not yet been incorporated into traditional forestry yield models, which monitor growth merely as a function of age. The risk here is that the newly discovered benefits will not be exploited. Meanwhile, the accelerated growth and ageing of trees is also significant for the forest ecosystem as a whole, as Pretzsch explains: “The plant and animal species that will be most affected are those living in habitats which depend on special phases and structures of forest development. These species may have to become more mobile to survive.”

Long-term observation provides unique pool of data

The study was based on 600,000 individual tree surveys conducted since 1870. Over such a long timescale, it was possible to determine from the growth of the trees how they responded to changing environmental conditions. Pretzsch adds: “Even though the experimental areas varied in terms of climate and soil conditions, we were still able to discern an overall trend of faster growth.”

But it is not just the experimental plots and the long observation period that make the data so interesting. “We did not observe the trees in isolation, but rather always in interaction with their neighbors. This helped us understand how the dynamics of individual trees influence the stand as a whole. The growth trends at stand level are relevant for the forestry industry in terms of productivity, carbon sequestration and climate risks,” concludes Pretzsch.


Forest stand growth dynamics in Central Europe have accelerated since 1870,

Pretzsch, H., Biber, P., Schütze, G., Uhl, E., Rötzer, Th., (2014)

Nat. Commun. 5:4967, DOI:10.1038/ncomms5967


Forest ecosystems have been exposed to climate change for more than 100 years, whereas the consequences on forest growth remain elusive. Based on the oldest existing experimental forest plots in Central Europe, we show that, currently, the dominant tree species Norway spruce and European beech exhibit significantly faster tree growth (+32 to 77%), stand volume growth (+10 to 30%) and standing stock accumulation (+6 to 7%) than in 1960. Stands still follow similar general allometric rules, but proceed more rapidly through usual trajectories. As forest stands develop faster, tree numbers are currently 17–20% lower than in past same-aged stands. Self-thinning lines remain constant, while growth rates increase indicating the stock of resources have not changed, while growth velocity and turnover have altered. Statistical analyses of the experimental plots, and application of an ecophysiological model, suggest that mainly the rise in temperature and extended growing seasons contribute to increased growth acceleration, particularly on fertile sites.

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Leon Brozyna
September 17, 2014 11:27 am

Talk about getting things half back asswards … they cite climate change first (with a fractional increase in temperature) and then CO2, rather than the obvious benefit of increased CO2 with a barely noticeable temperature increase.

Reply to  Leon Brozyna
September 17, 2014 12:27 pm

And the actual numbers they produce were for the sixties v present. The 1960s in Europe were characterised by particularly poor growing seasons with low temperatures and low sunlight hours (somebody check this?) relative to most decades before and after. I’d be very interested to see the much longer timescale results, if the data comparisons are solid and available

Reply to  Leon Brozyna
September 17, 2014 1:14 pm

Wouldn’t that be the money shot?

September 17, 2014 11:27 am

The scientists are putting the growth acceleration down to rising temperatures and the extended growing season. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen are other factors contributing to the faster growth.

And nitrogen??? WTF?

Reply to  steveta_uk
September 17, 2014 11:40 am

Steve Ta,
Presumably reactive nitrogen, deposition of NOx species.

Reply to  Bill_c
September 17, 2014 11:59 am

Correct. Known in forestry circles as ‘wet nitrogen’. Roughly 2/3 NOx aerosols and one third HNO3 from animal husbandry. According to a 2012 article for the US, supported by sampling from Harvards research forest, , concentrated dairy and chicken farming alone contribute almost a quarter of what the forests receive.

lawrence Cornell
Reply to  Bill_c
September 18, 2014 8:24 am

Rud Istvan.
“According to a 2012 article for the US, supported by sampling from Harvards research forest, , concentrated dairy and chicken farming alone contribute almost a quarter of what the forests receive.”
Are you referring to foliar introduction from the air as most or all of this contribution from farming ? As opposed to say runoff from precipitation and other water/land based mechanisms. OR you’re saying about 2/3 from atmosphere and about 1/3 from farming/terrestrial.
Thanks, if you have time. Trying to get a “picture” in my head. (…and my apologies for being a day late, I see, and for the current brain fart I’m having in comprehension.)

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Bill_c
September 18, 2014 1:39 pm

Lightning also fixes nitrogen – nitrates.

William Astley
Reply to  steveta_uk
September 17, 2014 12:23 pm

There is more water left at a plant’s roots to for the synergistic bacteria that produces nitrogen for the plant.
Plants lose roughly 40% of their water due to trans-respiration, due to the current very, very low atmospheric CO2 levels. When atmospheric CO2 levels rise plants produce less stomata on their leaves which enables the plants to reduce their water loss.
Increased atmospheric CO2 has significantly reduced the amount of desertification on the planet.

Carbon dioxide effects on stomatal responses to the environment and water use by crops under field conditions
Reductions in leaf stomatal conductance with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) could reduce water use by vegetation and potentially alter climate. Crop plants have among the largest reductions in stomatal conductance at elevated [CO2]. The relative reduction in stomatal conductance caused by a given increase in [CO2] is often not constant within a day nor between days, but may vary considerably with light, temperature and humidity. Species also differ in response, with a doubling of [CO2] reducing mean midday conductances by 50% in others. Elevated [CO2] increases leaf area index throughout the growing season in some species. Simulations, and measurements in free air carbon dioxide enrichment systems both indicate that the relatively large reductions in stomatal conductance in crops would translate into reductions of <10% in evapotranspiration, partly because of increases in temperature and decreases in humidity in the air around crop leaves.

The green shoots of recovery are showing up on satellite images of regions including the Sahel, a semi-desert zone bordering the Sahara to the south that stretches some 2,400 miles (3,860 kilometers). Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.
The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan.
In the eastern Sahara area of southwestern Egypt and northern Sudan, new trees—such as acacias—are flourishing, according to Stefan Kröpelin, a climate scientist at the University of Cologne’s Africa Research Unit in Germany.”Shrubs are coming up and growing into big shrubs. This is completely different from having a bit more tiny grass,” said Kröpelin, who has studied the region for two decades

Reply to  William Astley
September 18, 2014 6:16 am

One would think the Sahel data would be perfect for proving CO2 as a good thing vs. global warming. If global warming is occurring, wouldn’t its negative effect be seen on the margin – places almost too hot for growth such as the Sahel? In that case, plant growth should be falling there. On the other hand, if CO2 is actually doing good things, wouldn’t we see that in places where plants struggle to survive such as the Sahel? So if things are improving…

Reply to  William Astley
September 18, 2014 6:51 am

And I understand the biggest benefits of CO2 have occurred in Australia, which is a country with large areas where water supply is the critical factor in greening. Additional CO2 helps plants utilize their water supply better, which translates into more growth.

Reply to  steveta_uk
September 17, 2014 6:46 pm

Jim Hansen’s last paper out of NASA admitted this nitrogen enhancement of CO2 uptake:
“We suggest that the surge of fossil fuel use, mainly coal, since 2000 is a basic cause of the large increase of carbon uptake by the combined terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks. One mechanism by which fossil fuel emissions increase carbon uptake is by fertilizing the biosphere via provision of nutrients essential for tissue building, especially nitrogen, which plays a critical role in controlling net primary productivity and is limited in many ecosystems and field studies confirm a major role of nitrogen deposition, working in concert with CO2 fertilization, in causing a large increase in net primary productivity of temperate and boreal forests.”

Reply to  NikFromNYC
September 18, 2014 9:58 am

And this fellow is willing to go to jail in his fanaticism that we mustn’t have “climate change.” Once again, he is totally willing to sacrifice everything else alive in order to hurt or kill or reduce human population.

Reply to  steveta_uk
September 19, 2014 10:38 pm

Nitrogen..or at least nitrous compounds….is always a factor in plant growth.
But if CO2 is higher then nitrogen would be proportionally lower [albeit by a tiny percentage] so how does a lower percentage of nitrogen increase plant growth ?

Reply to  GregK
September 20, 2014 1:21 pm

Orgainic nitrogen fixation increases with increased organic material in the soil.
For example a good compost pile has 30 parts carbon, to one part nitrogen. It takes a lot of carbon to fix, a little bit of nitrogen.

September 17, 2014 11:41 am

Not so. Sugar Maples are dying off in my state.

more soylent green!
Reply to  cg
September 17, 2014 11:58 am

Because of increased CO2 and a longer growing season?

Reply to  more soylent green!
September 17, 2014 12:01 pm

[Note: ChemTrails are not discussed on this site. Thanks. ~mod.]

Brad Rich
Reply to  cg
September 18, 2014 10:32 am

Specifics, please. A neighbor’s tree? All of the sugar maples in Vermont?

Reply to  cg
September 19, 2014 9:14 am

Funny. Just the opposite here in western Md — invading bottomlands & lower slopes and advancing southeastward.

September 17, 2014 11:43 am

We’re going to need a lot of extra tree growth just to keep up with the rapid capacity growth in new wood pellet production plants serving as “renewable” energy inputs to power plants. This definition-based increase in wood burning is going off the charts—and consuming fossil fuels to transport it to green policy sinks.

Reply to  Resourceguy
September 18, 2014 5:19 am

You’re quite right. Shipping wood pellets across the oceans (using fossil fuelled ships) to burn in power plants is a strong candidate for the “ultimate green lunacy” award.

john robertson
September 17, 2014 11:43 am

Wait, what about Briffa?
Why did his trees indicate a decline?.
If the biologists are correct that the atmosphere was trending toward plant starvation levels of CO2, then this study makes sense.
I wonder what level of atmospheric CO2 is optimum for food growth?
Almost points to divine direction/intervention, Man discovers benefits of burning fossilized plants just in time to prevent CO2 starvation .Or was it plastic?
Who knows, maybe if we actually helped our fellow man in Africa to burn coal for cheap reliable base load electricity, allowed them the use of refrigeration and sanitation and all the other comforts we take for granted,we could bring atmospheric CO2 concentrations up to a level allowing flourishing plant growth world wide.
Of course it would be normal for those pushing their fear of plant food, demonizing the magic gas, to have it completely backwards.

Reply to  john robertson
September 17, 2014 12:51 pm

Hmm, like that, John .. ‘ The Magic Gas ‘
Somebody print some T-shirts saying ” We need more CO2″ and I’ll buy one, maybe three.
Should be in GREEN.

Reply to  Mothcatcher
September 17, 2014 2:09 pm

Hi, Here is a badge I [came] up with in response to that stupid blank green/black circle someone came up with.
Feel free to use it if you like it

Reply to  Mothcatcher
September 18, 2014 10:16 am

Marvellous, the griss. I saved your button–I want it on a T-shirt.
Make me one that says “I am a carbon-based life form.”

Reply to  Mothcatcher
September 19, 2014 2:28 pm
Reply to  john robertson
September 17, 2014 1:18 pm

john robertson
Here is what happened to a hot part of the world when it was hotter than today with more co2. Yet we are informed about the destruction of the biosphere because of co2 and heat. What a load of rubbish.

Carlos Jaramillo et. al – Science – 12 November 2010
Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation
Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event. We investigated the tropical forest response to this rapid warming by evaluating the palynological record of three stratigraphic sections in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.
doi: 10.1126/science.1193833
Carlos Jaramillo & Andrés Cárdenas – Annual Reviews – May 2013
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Global Warming and Neotropical Rainforests: A Historical Perspective
There is concern over the future of the tropical rainforest (TRF) in the face of global warming. Will TRFs collapse? The fossil record can inform us about that. Our compilation of 5,998 empirical estimates of temperature over the past 120 Ma indicates that tropics have warmed as much as 7°C during both the mid-Cretaceous and the Paleogene. We analyzed the paleobotanical record of South America during the Paleogene and found that the TRF did not expand toward temperate latitudes during global warm events, even though temperatures were appropriate for doing so, suggesting that solar insolation can be a constraint on the distribution of the tropical biome. Rather, a novel biome, adapted to temperate latitudes with warm winters, developed south of the tropical zone. The TRF did not collapse during past warmings; on the contrary, its diversity increased. The increase in temperature seems to be a major driver in promoting diversity.
doi: 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105403
ZHAO Yu-long et al – Advances in Earth Science – 2007
The impacts of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM)event on earth surface cycles and its trigger mechanism
The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) event is an abrupt climate change event that occurred at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary. The event led to a sudden reversal in ocean overturning along with an abrupt rise in sea surface salinity (SSSs) and atmospheric humidity. An unusual proliferation of biodiversity and productivity during the PETM is indicative of massive fertility increasing in both oceanic and terrestrial ecosystems. Global warming enabled the dispersal of low-latitude populations into mid-and high-latitude. Biological evolution also exhibited a dramatic pulse of change, including the first appearance of many important groups of ” modern” mammals (such as primates, artiodactyls, and perissodactyls) and the mass extinction of benlhic foraminifera…..
22(4) 341-349 DOI: ISSN: 1001-8166 CN: 62-1091/P

Reply to  Jimbo
September 17, 2014 3:49 pm

Interesting that even in the tropics higher temperature leads to higher diversity, indicating stronger vigour and robustness of the biosphere-ecosystem.

Reply to  Jimbo
September 17, 2014 6:24 pm

Nice articles, thanks Jimbo. You are really the master of very useful links!

Reply to  Jimbo
September 18, 2014 3:10 am

Nice response, Jimbo
But we don’t need to look to the past to know that both productivity and biodiversity are enhanced by warmer temperatures – just look at the world today.
Compare the buzzing, colourful and diverse flora and fauna of the tropics and warm temperate zones with the drab near-monocultures of the taiga or tundra, and the largely lifeless icecaps.

Reply to  Jimbo
September 18, 2014 3:28 am

True. A warmer world is more beneficial for life. Cooling is the scythe of death.

Reply to  john robertson
September 17, 2014 3:15 pm

“john robertson September 17, 2014 at 11:43 am
Wait, what about Briffa?
Why did his TREE indicate a decline?.”
Singular 🙂

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  TRM
September 18, 2014 12:41 am

You mean he may have taken just any other one to avoid the decline 😕

Reply to  john robertson
September 17, 2014 3:57 pm

Depending on species, from about 500 ppm to 2000 ppm gets the peak response. Typically 1000 ppm is a good general level to set.

Reply to  john robertson
September 18, 2014 6:43 am

CO2 augmentation in greenhouses is typically from 1,000 to 3,000 ppmv since that’s been found to be the optimum levels for growing the plants being cultivated.
So if the current atmospheric level is 400 ppmv, greenhouse augmentation is from 2.5 to 7.5 times as much. In other words, most plants would do better with a whole lot more CO2.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Auroville
Reply to  RockyRoad
September 18, 2014 9:59 pm

The difficult part is where on earth would we get enough carbon containing fuels to raise the level that much? Many discussions are about the level that is good or bad without reference to where it might come from. If we can’t get the oceans to spit out a heck of a lot more CO2, there is no way our puny emissions can over-feed the absorbers and drive the concentration to1000 ppm. It is not one-for-one as everyone knows. Emitting a ton of CO2 only raises the total by at most half a ton. One or two thousand ppm is a heck of a lot of CO2.

September 17, 2014 11:59 am

Here is a simple path (cause and effect) in any given location that anyone can understand;
More CO2 more green stuff.
More green stuff more rain
More rain. more food for animals of every persuasion..

September 17, 2014 12:07 pm
“Researchers confirm that plant life seen above 40 degrees north latitude, which represents a line stretching from New York to Madrid to Beijing, has been growing more vigorously since 1981. One suspected cause is rising temperatures possibly linked to the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere”

Reply to  richard
September 17, 2014 12:23 pm

What rising temperature, pray tell.

September 17, 2014 12:14 pm

Forest ecosystems have been exposed to climate change for more than 100 years…

If only we could go back a couple of centuries when nothing about the climate changed. /sarc

Reply to  Gary
September 17, 2014 2:07 pm

Actually I think time itself only just started 100 years ago. I guess before that it was timeless.

September 17, 2014 12:17 pm

Here in Scotland I reckon I see stupendous tree growth in the woodlands. Trees shrubs and undergrowth seem to be bursting with life. On the flip side, deforestation is a complex and I believe important factor in said rise in CO2. If you switch a pump into reverse it has fairly dramatic impact upon your system.
Pretty far off topic on the unwooded west coast island of Eigg, Roger Andrews has a look at the renewable energy system there. It is a beautiful post that shows how renewables can deliver sustainability. Each household was gifted £33,297 worth of renewable infrastructure but thereafter the energy is really cheap, if not a bit unreliable.
Eigg – a model for a sustainable energy future

Reply to  Euan Mearns
September 17, 2014 5:26 pm

So they built a $2.5-$3 million electrical generating system with hydro, wind, and PV components, battery backup and 64kw diesel generators on top for 50 households with 87 people who all together use about 300Kwh/ day. It seems apparent that one of the diesel units could cover the whole works with peak overhead to spare, but I’m a belt and suspenders kinda guy so let’s say we give them three. Even if we don’t bargain shop too hard that’s less than 100K, which would leave well over $2.5 million to buy fuel and maintenance with just the interest on the principal. Granted, the carbon footprint might be somewhat larger, but given some of the numbers I’ve seen for the carbon generated in producing, installing and maintaining “sustainable” alternative energy it’s probably not as big a difference as might be supposed.
Of course, the locals have the added benefit of living under an entirely dictatorial energy regime including massive inconvenience and draconian financial penalties, but evidently they’re all a bunch of old hippies anyway, as nobody seems to have any problem with all the energy fascism. Which is understandable since none of there own funds were used in cobbling together this boondoggle.

Reply to  Euan Mearns
September 17, 2014 6:38 pm

Euan, did you perhaps forget the /sarc tag? 😉
It is a post that shows how inefficient, uneconomic and draconian the system is:
333 kW installed capacity times 8,760 hours/year = 2,917,180 kWh/year at a 100% load factor.
Average annual electricity consumption = 2,160 kWh per household, times 50 households = 108,000 kWh/year.
Load factor = 108,000/2,917,180 times 100 = 3.7%…….exclude the 160 kW of backup diesel capacity and its ~10% contribution to total generation the load factor for combined hydro+wind+solar is still only 6.4%.
… the … system is hopelessly uneconomic. The levelized cost of Eigg electricity given by the NREL calculator assuming a 20-year life, £5,000/kW installed cost, a 4% capacity factor, a 3% discount rate and a £150/kW/yr O&M cost is £1.38/kWh. (Eigg Electric can get away with charging only £0.20/kWh because it got the system effectively for free.
…..the system makes no attempt to match supply to demand. Instead it manages demand by setting low consumption limits to begin with and then by cutting the power off (and fining the violator) when these limits are exceeded: Eigg manages electricity demand mainly by capping the instantaneous power that can be used to 5 kW for a household and 10 kW for a business. If usage goes over the limit, the electricity supply is cut off and the maintenance team must be called to … turn the power back on, a £20 charge may be levied

Other than those little problems, it sounds wonderful! /sarc

Reply to  markx
September 18, 2014 5:33 pm

I’m off-grid in the northern US Midwest.. My solar supplies 100% of my electricity needs and I live quite well thank you. I do have a propane genset backup but have never needed it. 1600 watts of panels with a 24 volt/440 amp hr. battery supply. 4kw inverter. Cost was under $3,000. Even at triple that capacity, if needed in the Scottish climate, it still beats what they did.

Reply to  Euan Mearns
September 18, 2014 12:37 am

Readers will hopefully learn with time that about 50% of my comments are laced with sarcasm or satire 🙂
I don’t actually begrudge the people of Eigg their system. It is the political line of thinking that enabled it and the behavioural control it imposes that is a worry. Do the islanders put up with the behavioural controls because they genuinely believe they are saving the planet? It is also worrying that some / many will believe “if Eigg can do it why can’t we”.
Polling day in Scotland. This is quite amusing from a few different angles:
The Endless Rabbit Hole of Secession, Shetland Islands Edition

Reply to  Euan Mearns
September 18, 2014 12:03 pm

One just wonders given all that dough, why didn’t they build a dam and install a proper hydro power system instead. It is reliable, requires minimal care and maintenance and lasts virtually for ever.

Joel O'Bryan
September 17, 2014 12:19 pm

New CO2 paradigm to replace the old discredited paradigm:
CO2 is our friend. It helps buffer our climate from disastrous cool downs. It feeds the plants upon which all animals depend.

September 17, 2014 12:24 pm

Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
CO2: it’s not a demon threatening to destroy the Earth — it’s just plant food.

Retired Engineer
September 17, 2014 12:28 pm

Dumb question: If biomass/greenstuff has increased since ’79, satellite era, by 3-5%, shoud that increase the global absorbtion of the evil CO2 by the same? If we nasty humans produce 3% of the CO2, it might seem that more green cancels it out. And perhaps the recent increase is just the usual 800 year lag from the MWP. Nahh …

Reply to  Retired Engineer
September 17, 2014 12:37 pm

Keep up with that kind of crazy talk and you’re going to get your research grant rescinded!

September 17, 2014 12:44 pm

So more CO2 means larger rings, which looks like higher temperatures. And tree rings are supposed to be a proxy for temperature? This just gets better and better.

September 17, 2014 12:52 pm

Unemployed graduate Engineer looking for your help to build up his solar thermal company. Please take a moment to check my project on indiegogo

September 17, 2014 12:52 pm

I’m a bit skeptical that the small increase in CO2 could have such discernible effects. As I recall, when people try to enhance growth this way in greenhouses, they pump the CO2 levels up to something like 10000 ppm. What would happen if they used 400 ppm instead? Anything?

Reply to  rw
September 17, 2014 1:23 pm

No, usually about to 1000-1200 ppm, after that their is diminished returns, and toxicity shows at about 2,000-10,000 ppm (depending on species).

Michael Wassil
Reply to  rw
September 17, 2014 1:26 pm

I think you got an extra 0 in your pumped up level. The correct CO2 concentration used to stimulate greenhouse plant growth is 1000-1200ppm. It’s quite clear from actual measurements that the planet has ‘greened’ significantly since the mid-1980s. Plant biomass has increased by about 15%. Food crop production has steadily increased as well. So even if you don’t think 50-100ppm increase seems significant, the world’s plants have voted in favour.

Reply to  rw
September 17, 2014 1:30 pm

At an increase of almost 2 ppm per year since 1960, atmospheric CO2 has risen about 30% in the last 50 years or so, to the now around 400 ppm. While 30% might not seem to be a huge leap, remember CO2 levels at 250 ppm were at the low end of the scale for plant life. It is only reasonable to assume that the steady rise since the 250 ppm around the end of the LIA would have a noticeable effect, isn’t it?

Owen in GA
Reply to  rw
September 18, 2014 6:12 am

Start at ~300ppm increase to ~400ppm that is a 33% increase. It still isn’t optimum for plant growth, but is still farther away from plant starvation (~180ppm as a ballpark, different species have different death levels) This really isn’t a surprising result.

Reply to  rw
September 19, 2014 1:04 pm

Thanks for the replies.
BTW. In this case, this constitutes further support for the validity of Keeling’s measurements. Karl Popper notwithstanding, this is the sort of consistency among results that I find satisfying.

September 17, 2014 12:54 pm

“Three decades ago, “forest dieback” was a hot topic, with the survival of large forest ecosystems in doubt”.
And so the world bounces from one eco-crisis to the next. I wonder what comes after global warming.

Reply to  mpainter
September 17, 2014 2:04 pm

Yeah what happened to the rain forests are dying crisis?
Why are eco-conscious always hopping from one crisis to another. Could the whole eco-crisis industry have been created simply to support individuals who are starved for attention?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Owen in GA
Reply to  Alx
September 18, 2014 6:17 am

I’ll have to do a literature search to refresh, but there were psychological/sociological studies that indicate that man will substitute fear for knowledge.
The animated movie “The Croods” got the concept pretty well down – fear of the unknown leads to survival and thus the reinforcing of the fear of the unknown. Thus any pattern that “appears unusual” will trigger in many an “end-times are coming” fear event. This motivates them to act superstitiously rather than analytically. It also fits the basic laziness most of us have – that sciencey stuff is just too hard!

Reply to  mpainter
September 17, 2014 3:26 pm

What comes next indeed! They may have to actually start focusing on cleaning up real pollutants. But they’ve been lying, financially using and abusing their supporters for a long time on this issue. Most of whom really want to help out and do the right thing for all humans and the planet.
What do they say to all their supporters? Oh we were wrong? Never mind what we said about CO2? Trust us one more time because this time we are right?
The hole they have dug themselves is so deep I don’t any way out for them but to get buried in it. Reminds me of an old soccer chant “He’s dead, he’s dead. Throw in the dirt and cover his head.”

Reply to  mpainter
September 17, 2014 3:53 pm

Well the Hysterics have capped the extreme ends, so we’re left with the extreme middle.
We’ll have Peak Average, or possibly a Catastrophic Man made Median.
In the future the average will be so average for so long that the planets [Oceans, Climate, Biosphere, Carbon Cycle, Hydro cycle, Interest Rates, House Prices, (choose one or all)] will hit dangerous levels of “not much change” or Anthropogenic Statistical Stasis (ASS).
Governments will blame decreasing consumption, banks will blame Governments for increasing legislation, the political left will blame everyone but themselves for even living, the political right will blame the Political Left for even living.
Campaigns about “Change” will appear, (seems familiar) Universities will run Humanities courses on the evils of Western Imperial even handedness, forcing people to aspire to ‘Just Enough’.
Anti ‘Just enough’ NGO’s will form, insisting that people increase their use of Land, Water, Food, Energy regardless of the consequences.
Clever Philosophers will fill Universities with courses on why ‘Just enough’ is a social construct, Computer models will be created showing how Mankind has affected the planet disastrously by being even handed and reasonable.
Al Gore will promote Conspicuous Consumption as the new Moral high ground (no change there then),
Green Peace will reinvent itself as GreenBacks, and appeal for buckets of money (no change there then),
they’ll sail to the Arctic, to show how the uninspirational clockwork normalcy of the sea ice extent is wrecking photo opportunities for Nat Geo photogs.
This will carry on until something interesting happens, like a 0.1% change up or down in the length of pickles, then we’re back to the extreme ends.

September 17, 2014 1:01 pm

If the warmunists don’t care that their windmills kill birds and bats, why would they give a fig that CO2 helps trees?
It’s their malthusian/money-grab/power-grab agenda that is important to them, nada else.

September 17, 2014 1:10 pm

At the same time, the altered timescale has not yet been incorporated into traditional forestry yield models, which monitor growth merely as a function of age. The risk here is that the newly discovered benefits will not be exploited. 
So we’re still doomed? Phew! Had me worried for a moment there.

September 17, 2014 1:20 pm

We must keep up co2 output or there will be a tremendous shock to the ecosystem that is now reliant on the extra co2.
Otherwise the trees will starve !!

Michael Wassil
Reply to  stevek
September 17, 2014 1:44 pm

Of course, but it’s NOT extra CO2! The last Pleistocene glacial max ‘sequestered’ most of the atmospheric CO2 in the oceans and ice. Atmospheric CO2 fell below 200 ppm, scarily close to the ‘150ppm limit’ where plants die from lack of CO2. Had that happened, we would not be having this discussion.
So please, do your part to return CO2 to the atmosphere. Plants will love you and give us oxygen and food.

September 17, 2014 1:29 pm

Step One: burn several mountains’ worth of coal per year
Step Two: buy up desert real estate
Step Three: PROFIT!
The good news, I guess, is that CO2 emissions show absolutely no sign of slowing down anytime soon…

John Powers
September 17, 2014 1:33 pm

I apologize for just being a computer nerd and not having a significant science background. But if trees are growing faster and plants need CO2 and nitrogen, then other plants will grow faster ??? like food crops?

Michael Wassil
Reply to  John Powers
September 17, 2014 1:46 pm

Welcome, Sherlock!

Reply to  John Powers
September 17, 2014 2:40 pm

Have a look at CO2 Science, they have a huge database of all studies which were performed with extra CO2 on lots of plants. In average, a CO2 doubling gives a 50% growth boost in the best circumstances, but in the real world, other constraints may play a role like drought, floods, lack of minerals,… The growth thus is plant, community, soil and climate specific. See:

September 17, 2014 1:59 pm

Don’t know of any studies but a valid question is, Does nature react to additional CO2 by accelerating tree and plant life growth and if so why is this a bad thing?

September 17, 2014 2:09 pm

OH NO….we have another divergent problem that has to be adjusted and algorithmed to death
someone call Mosh………

September 17, 2014 2:12 pm

In response to McWibben..
TOWARDS 700 ppm ! 🙂
Onward and upward !

Gentle Tramp
September 17, 2014 2:30 pm

That the positive CO2 fertilizer effect might be more important than the effects by higher temperatures and NOx fertilization for an enhanced growth of trees, can be guessed by the following video, where at 36:45 playing time hard evidence is given what happens to trees when there is to little CO2 in the atmosphere as e.g. during the last ice age:

September 17, 2014 2:46 pm

Some claim wood is superior when it doesn’t grow so fast, and the grain is dense. For example, some say the reason Stradivarius violins sound good is because the maples they were made from grew stressed and slowly, in a cold region of Croatia,.during the Maunder Minimum.
Of course, people went hungry in the Maunder Minimum. When it comes to eating and avoiding starvation, I’m all for rapid growth.

save energy
Reply to  Caleb
September 17, 2014 3:37 pm

Yes, but it was only poor people who starved & now the rich can listen to good music !!
So our poor must starve so the likes of Al Gore can fly around the world.
You should know your lowly place in society !!

September 17, 2014 2:59 pm

And we are seeing the benefit of the CO2 levels in our crop yield this year as well (although, admittedly, agricultural science has a lot to do with it too….).

Thomas Englert
September 17, 2014 3:11 pm

I’ve seen references to hundreds of studies on the benefits of higher CO² levels on nearly every type of plant species, and the effect of a mere 400 ppmv is just the beginning.
Moving up to 750-800 or even more really gives enhanced growth and agricultural production.
Regarding tree growth, I haven’t yet seen an analysis of the effect of faster growth on lumber strength, elasticity, stiffness, etc.
If I remember correctly, slower growing softwoods are stronger, while faster growing hardwoods are stronger.
There’s not much use for Beech, relatively speaking, in the USA, but Oaks, members of the Beech family, are extensively used.
If enlarged growth rings in structural softwood lumber reduce the various moduli of “strength”, this may have implications on lumber grading of Doug Fir-Larch, SYP, and Spruce-Pine-Fir and the long time established engineering tables for the building trades.

September 17, 2014 3:44 pm

If the funding far warmists stops, so will their “cause” AND if I see another CC paper on the CSIRO website, i am gonna chuck up all over Black Mountain

M Seward
September 17, 2014 3:49 pm

That sits with teh CSIRO in Australia reporting about a 20% ‘greening’ of this continent. Its a no brainer really and all that faster growth means faster circulation of water via transpiration and back as rain, a negative feedback, energy escalator to the sky. The big question for me is whether all that energy radiated from the sun and now stored in chemical bonds is a negative feedback. It has the same effect on the face of it.

September 17, 2014 3:54 pm

Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have helped boost green foliage across the world’s arid regions over the past 30 years through a process called CO2 fertilisation, according to CSIRO research.
Satellite data shows the per cent amount that foliage cover has changed around the world from 1982 to 2010.
In findings based on satellite observations, CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU), found that this CO2 fertilisation correlated with an 11 per cent increase in foliage cover from 1982-2010 across parts of the arid areas studied in Australia, North America, the Middle East and Africa, according to CSIRO research scientist, Dr. Randall Donohue.
The fertilisation effect occurs where elevated CO2 enables a leaf during photosynthesis, the process by which green plants convert sunlight into sugar, to extract more carbon from the air or lose less water to the air, or both.
If elevated CO2 causes the water use of individual leaves to drop, plants in arid environments will respond by increasing their total numbers of leaves. These changes in leaf cover can be detected by satellite, particularly in deserts and savannas where the cover is less complete than in wet locations, according to Dr Donohue.
From Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2 (CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Australia’s national science agency. 3 July 2013)

Reply to  Andres Valencia
September 17, 2014 4:43 pm

This was published originally at WUWT in 2013.
Thanks, A.

Reply to  Andres Valencia
September 17, 2014 5:16 pm

Global warming activiat will probaly say that increased growth of trees is a bad thing

Reply to  Andres Valencia
September 18, 2014 1:04 am

Abel bemused: “Global warming activiat will probaly say that increased growth of trees is a bad thing”
Indeed there has already been a long string of papers on about the expansion of green land due to warming itself as being depressing, what with more asthma and more poison ivy and such. Now add carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide fertilization, oh boy, it’s a real horror show!

September 17, 2014 7:03 pm

Also see “AGU says CO2 is plant food”, at

September 17, 2014 8:05 pm

More trees, that’s great.
This means more jobs and less unemployed workers on the dole.
We can employ people to cut down the excess of trees, employ others to put these trees through timber mills, even more workers to build houses from that timber, extra people to paint and plumb the house, carpenters to build furniture for the people who will live in these houses, truck loads of workers will have to bulldoze and build streets for all these house, and naturally there’ll be the planners and architects, along with power, water and sewerage services to be established,,,, and so it goes,,, work for everyone,,,, all brought to you from this glorious excess of CO2 in our atmosphere.
Scientists should be researching how we can get even more CO2 into the atmosphere and so make more trees grow even faster.
My gawd, with all this logical thought I’ve just come up with, maybe I should have been a politician instead of a cartoonist. I know the pay would have been much better.
Anyhow, here be a cartoon on the topic . . . .

September 17, 2014 10:08 pm

This reminds me of this paper from 2009
Date: 19 Aug 2009
Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
Leonard Ornstein, Igor Aleinov, David Rind
Each year, irrigated Saharan- and Australian-desert forests could sequester amounts of atmospheric CO2 at least equal to that from burning fossil fuels. Without any rain, to capture CO2 produced from gasoline requires adding about $1 to the per-gallon pump-price to cover irrigation costs, using reverse osmosis (RO), desalinated, sea water. Such mature technology is economically competitive with the currently favored, untested, power-plant Carbon Capture (and deep underground, or under-ocean) Sequestration (CCS). Afforestation sequesters CO2, mostly as easily stored wood, both from distributed sources (automotive, aviation, etc., that CCS cannot address) and from power plants. Climatological feasibility and sustainability of such irrigated forests, and their potential global impacts are explored using a general circulation model (GCM). Biogeophysical feedback is shown to stimulate considerable rainfall over these forests, reducing desalination and irrigation costs; economic value of marketed, renewable, forest biomass, further reduces costs; and separately, energy conservation also reduces the size of the required forests and therefore their total capital and operating costs. The few negative climate impacts outside of the forests are discussed, with caveats. If confirmed with other GCMs, such irrigated, subtropical afforestation probably provides the best, near-term route to complete control of green-house-gas-induced, global warming.
This new suggestion for CO2 enhancement of tree growth just makes the plan even more economical. The Aussies already have the mothballed desal plants built and ready to go.
I have always felt that the alarmists are much more interested in inflicting their misanthropy on humanity than on any benefit to the planet from their Carbon demonization. As an easily verifiable test of that hypothesis I would suggest that we all, for the purposes of agreement. offer to stipulate to most of the alarmists hysteria about CAGW, but only with the proviso that they abandon all their civilizationally destructive pursuits of carbon demons and sustainability in favor of this much simpler, much more economical, and much more likely to actually have a positive effect, proposal.
I usually try to avoid making predictions, especially about the future, but I’d be willing to wager a significant sum that faced with such a proposal i.e. a plan which is much cheaper, much more doable, which might actually work, and is almost totally lacking in any downside, but which offers them no path to exercise their self declared superiority over their fellow man and regulate everyone’s lives, they would be backwashing like crazy, arguing that such a scheme is nothing but the evil machinations of the Koch brothers.
Unfortunately I lack the organizational skills to make my plan a reality, but if I could bring it off, my view of how it would play out is the one thing in this entire disingenuous mess that I have the least doubt about.

Reply to  Dave Wendt
September 18, 2014 12:24 pm

Dave Wendt on September 17, 2014 at 10:08 pm
Irrigation and forrestation of desert are a great idea. These processes are happening – and will continue – naturally due to increasing CO2, without the need of any human projects. (A little help would do no harm.) Could this greening of marginal habitats that is being observed, due to CO2, come to the rescue of Beijing against the encroaching desert? Maybe that’s why they are building coal power stations so fast.

Anarchist Hate Machine
September 18, 2014 4:28 am

I know there was an answer to this somewhere on the site but I couldn’t find it, so I’ll just ask here:
at what level does the biosphere start dying due to inadequate CO2 (ppm)?

Anarchist Hate Machine
Reply to  Anarchist Hate Machine
September 18, 2014 4:30 am

Oops. I had not bothered to read the comments earlier, but I see the answer is 150 ppm.

Reply to  Anarchist Hate Machine
September 18, 2014 2:37 pm

No; C3 plants will, but not C4 plants (grasses). C4 plants can extract CO2 right down to 0 ppm.

Reply to  Anarchist Hate Machine
September 18, 2014 2:37 pm

Corn is a C4 plant.

September 18, 2014 5:01 am

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
Getting hundreds of people to look at an idea tends to bring out the best (and sometimes the worst). Good information. Carbon dioxide is actually good for the world. It is an essential ingredient in life. It is not a pollutant in any contrivable definition.

September 18, 2014 6:18 am

So, would it be correct to say that if tree growth responds readily to CO2 content, then dendro climate approach is not necessarily measuring temperature, but gas: ergo, you cannot separate the two in your deductions from the experimental record since you now have no independent measure of the two

September 18, 2014 7:07 am

The only headline in the yellow press I saw, was: “Trees grow at a faster rate due to rising temperatures!” a short message about extended growing seasons followed. Nothing about CO2 as a fertilizer.

September 18, 2014 12:12 pm

The scientists are putting the growth acceleration down to rising temperatures and the extended growing season.
This is not a valid explanation or excuse. If they wanted to illucidate the effect of temperature and length of growing season this is very easy, just compare regions at different latitudes. This secular increase in growth – if it were due to the fraction of a degree warming over the last half century this would point to an acute sensitivity to temperature which simply is not to be found in the real world. The much larger increase in CO2 is the only plausible explanation for the surge in photosynthesis of which CO2 is the fuel.
It is shameful evasion to pin the growth increase on a tiny temperature increase and to struggle to even mention CO2.

September 18, 2014 2:27 pm

Another benefit of climate change and increased CO2 – trees continue to grow at a faster rate

That should make the tree huggers happy.
Hey, I love trees. It makes me happy too!
Maybe I’m a tree hugger and didn’t know it.

September 18, 2014 2:43 pm

I was involved in the logging trade in the early 1970s. I saw a lot of stumps consisting of mainly douglas fir with a smaller % of pine varieties. Any of the trees over 30+ inches diameter would have the inner core of about 14 to 25+ rings per inch. The outer rings, around 60 to 80 years in length, were spaced from 5 to 8 rings per inch. A 70 to 80 year old tree in the region would be approximately 22″ to 26″ diameter, and about 90′ to 110′ height. That would correlate with rapid forest growth starting early in the 1900s.

September 21, 2014 1:41 am

So its Tree Pollution now – where will it all end?!

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