Study Shows That Old Oak Trees Will Be Able To Absorb More CO2 As A Response To Climate Change


New research has shown that mature oak trees will react to the expected raised CO2 levels that are expected in the world by 2050 by increasing their photosynthesis rate by up to a third of their usual rate.

These results were taken after researchers from the University of Birmingham did a huge outdoor experiment where they took an old oak forest and bathed it in high levels of CO2. This is a welcome addition to former studies where they looked at the use of forests and their effectivity of taking in carbon, which could help climate researchers create new ways and new tools to help them fight the horrible effects of climate change.


A Positive Increase of Carbon Capture

The ten-year project, which involved 175-year old oak trees, already responded to the CO2 within the first three years. In fact, they consistently increased their photosynthesis rate within those first few years alone.

In order to fully understand the effect, the research team is taking the time to measure the soil, roots, wood, and leaves of the trees to see where the extra carbon that’s captured ends up, as well as how long it manages to say within the giant forest.

While the photosynthesis was increased when the trees were encased in powerful sunlight, the general harmony between carbon and nitrogen, which are considered key elements, didn’t change within the leaves of the trees.

With the researchers’ findings that the nitrogen and carbon ratio is constant shows them that the old trees managed to find ways of ‘redirecting their elements,’ or otherwise finding a way to balance the carbon the trees take from the air by taking more nitrogen from the soil.

The research was don’t at the Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facility located at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) alongside their colleagues from the Western Sydney University that happen to have a very comparable study using an old eucalyptus forest, called EucFACE. Both of these projects, EucFACE and BIFoR, are two of the world’s biggest experiments that are looking into the effects of the global change crisis on nature.

According to Anna Gardner, a researcher from Birmingham that happened to carry out the experiment’s measures explained, “I’m really excited to contribute the first published science results to BIFoR FACE, an experiment of global importance. It was hard work conducting measurements at the top of a 25-meter oak day after day, but it was the only way to be sure how much extra the trees were photosynthesizing.”

Lead scientist of EucFACE, Professor David Ellsworth, shared, “Previous work at EucFACE measured photosynthesis increased by up to a fifth in increased carbon dioxide. So, we now know how old forest responds in the warm-temperature climate that we have here in Sydney, and the mild temperate climate of the northern middle latitudes where Birmingham sits.”

Meanwhile, founding Director of BIFoR, Professor Rob MacKenzie, explained about the study, which was published in Tree Physiology, “It’s a delight to see the first piece of the carbon jigsaw for BIFoR FACE fall into place. We are sure now that the old trees are responding to future carbon dioxide levels. How the entire forest ecosystem responds is a much bigger question requiring many more detailed investigations. We are now pushing ahead with those investigations.”

A report in the Independent also explained that Prof. MacKenzie also said that this particular research could be detrimental to coming up with future effective climate change policies. He said, “Of the [UK] prime minister’s top four climate targets – coal, cars, cash, and trees are, perhaps, surprisingly, the least well-understood as a climate control lever.”

He added, “Our work adds to the small body of results from laboratories-in-the-forest that are essential to guide climate policy.”


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