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Trees Are Getting Bigger

Tree growth is as much a response to the environment as it is to the genetic make-up of the tree. Water, carbon dioxide, sun and minerals from the air and ground are a tree’s food - it uses them to produce sugars, which cause it to grow. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities has been causing the rate of photosynthesis in trees and plants to increase, leading them to grow bigger and fatter. That's good news.

Redwood trees

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, a full-grown tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year, releasing oxygen in exchange.

New research led by Eric Davis, a Ph.D. graduate of Ohio State University’s agricultural, environmental and development economics program, shows how much bulkier trees have been getting on the abundance of excess carbon, reported Ohio State News.

The study, “The effect of carbon fertilization on naturally regenerated and planted U.S. forests,” was published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers found that the biomass, or wood volume, of forests in the U.S. has increased due to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In ten individual temperate forest groups across the U.S., the researchers found a consistent increase in biomass due to elevated carbon levels. The results showed that trees are protecting the planet’s ecosystems from global heating impacts by absorbing carbon at a higher rate as they grow more quickly.

“Forests are taking carbon out of the atmosphere at a rate of about 13 percent of our gross emissions,” said Brent Sohngen, professor of environmental and resource economics at The Ohio State University, who was co-author of the study. “While we’re putting billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we’re actually taking much of it out just by letting our forests grow.”


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