Report Questions Forests' Effectiveness in Storing Carbon

Report Questions Forests' Effectiveness in Storing Carbon

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Ian Muttoo

A new study suggests declining tree growth in certain regions may hinder their ability to store carbon dioxide and help the world meet emissions reduction targets.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, believe estimates of how much carbon may be stored in forests may be overblown. This is because trees in temperate and boreal forests have grown more slowly, therefore storing less carbon than expected.

"We need to entirely rethink impacts of climate change," Madhur Anand, a professor in Guelph's School of Environmental Sciences, said in a statement. "We need to consider multiple stressors and interactions with disturbances. More research is needed in these areas to better predict implications for forest productivity, management and even restoration."

Anand's findings conflict with earlier predictions that forests would benefit from a rise in atmospheric CO2. Instead, some trees have begun to use water more efficiently, but this didn't prevent a decline in growth. Some trees with growth declines not clearly linked to climate change should be researched more thoroughly since they could be suffering from a lack of nutrients, Anand said.

Anand's team examined red oaks, red maples, red pine and black spruce in Ontario. The findings were published last month in the peer-reviewed international journal PLoS ONE.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Ian Muttoo.