Forests could benefit when fall color comes late

January 22, 2008

Do those fall colors seem to show up later and later—if at all? Scientists say we can blame increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for prolonging the growing season of the trees. And that may actually be good news for forestry industries.

Writing in the current issue of the journal Global Change Biology, Michigan Technological University Professor David F. Karnosky and colleagues from two continents present evidence that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere act directly to delay the usual autumn spectacle of changing colors and falling leaves in northern hardwood forests.

“Basically, this is a good-news story for our region’s forests,” said Karnosky. “It suggests that they will become a bit more productive due to the extra carbon being taken up in the autumn, along with the increased photosynthesis throughout the growing season.”

The Michigan Tech professor of forest resources and environmental science and colleagues from Illinois, Wisconsin, Belgium, England, Estonia and Italy collected and analyzed data over two years on what they call “autumnal senescence” or the changing of colors and falling of leaves as photosynthesis decreases. They studied forests near Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and Tuscania, Italy.

They found that the forests on both continents stayed greener longer as CO2 levels rose, independent of temperature changes. However, the experiments were too brief to indicate how mature forests may be impacted over time. Also, Karnosky’s research in Wisconsin suggests that other factors, such as increasing ozone levels in the part of the atmosphere closest to the ground, can negate the beneficial effects of elevated carbon dioxide.

The study’s results are another example of an expanding body of scientific evidence that global climate change is affecting the world’s forests. There has been plenty of evidence gathered previously to show that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing tree growth to begin earlier in the spring, but until now, most scientists believed that other factors, such as temperature and length of day, were the primary elements influencing autumnal senescence.

Source: Michigan Technological University

Explore further: Mangroves help protect against sea level rise

Related Stories

Mangroves help protect against sea level rise

July 23, 2015

Mangrove forests could play a crucial role in protecting coastal areas from sea level rise caused by climate change, according to new research involving the University of Southampton.

First report on greenhouse gas emissions from African rivers

July 21, 2015

Twelve scientists from the University of Liege, the KU Leuven and the Research Institute for Development (France), have just completed a large-scale research project conducted over a five-year period on the African continent. ...

Why haven't Madagascar's famed lemurs been saved yet?

June 30, 2015

Lemurs are cute – there is no denying it. Their big eyes and fluffy faces mean they really are the poster animals of Madagascar, an island known internationally for its unique flora and fauna. But the plight of Madagascar's ...

China announces climate target for Paris deal

June 30, 2015

Top carbon polluter China confirmed it will try to cap its rising emissions before 2030 while the U.S. and Brazil pledged to boost renewable energy sources in a series of announcements Tuesday in anticipation of a global ...

Recommended for you

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.