Big old trees grow faster, making them vital carbon absorbers

Large trees don’t slow down with age. Large, older trees have been found to grow faster and absorb carbon dioxide more rapidly than younger, smaller trees, despite the previous view that trees’ growth slowed as they developed. Research published in the journal Nature this week shows that in 97% of tropical and temperate tree species, growth rate increases with size. This suggests that older trees play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. William Morris, a PhD candidate from the University of Melbourne involved in the study, says that prior to the study, the common assumption was that as trees aged, their growth rate and carbon absorption decreased. Morris explained that the belief came from two different lines of evidence: “First, it has been shown that at the whole forest level, young forest acquires mass faster than old-growth forest. Second, studies have shown that the leaves of older trees are less efficient at photosynthesising than the leaves of younger trees.” But the new study, which involved 403 tree species and was led by authors from the US Geological Survey, examined carbon storage at the level of individual trees rather than forests. The findings highlight the value […]

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