Temperature found to be most significant driver of the world's tallest trees

Jan 07, 2014

Understanding forest biodiversity and how carbon dioxide is stored within trees is an important area of ecological research. The bigger the tree, the more carbon it stores and a study in New Phytologist explores global variance in tree height, identifying temperature as the most important factor behind the tallest species.

Height gives canopy trees, the focus of much forest carbon research, a competitive advantage as they can place leaves at higher light levels while suppressing their competitors. Height also allows for wind-dispersed pollen and fruits to travel further.

The new study explores the role of temperature in driving tree height, a study which may allow us to forecast how forests adapt to climate change. The research examined the temperature-driven physiological model of tree height in order to explain the thermal climates in which the tallest individuals of the tallest tree species grow.

The tallest specimens of the world's nine tallest were found to grow in climates with an unusually small seasonal temperature variation, which accounted for only 2.1% of global land area. In contrast their distance from the equator ranged from 3900 to 5500 km, their altitude above sea level from 50 to 1750 m, and the distance between the most distant localities ranged from 2700 km in Australia to 1400 km in western North America.

"It is amazing how little we know about the causes of global tree size variation even though not knowing current variation makes predicting climate change caused changes difficult or impossible," said Markku Larjavaara. "If trees will get bigger in the future they will store more carbon than they do now and would therefore mitigate climate change."

Explore further: Rare albino dolphin captured in Japan's 'Cove'

More information: Markku Larjavaara, The world's tallest trees grow in thermally similar climates, New Phytologist, DOI: 10.1111/nph.12656, URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nph.12656/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Two-pronged approach to boost forest carbon storage

Oct 21, 2013

More carbon will sometimes be stored in forests if a bigger variety of tree species is planted along with key species - such as nitrogen fixing trees - that are known to contribute strongly to carbon storage, ...

Tree physics limits height and leaf size, study shows

Jan 14, 2013

(Phys.org)—Why are the leaves on the tallest trees all about the same size, and why aren't those tall trees even taller? It all has to do with basic scientific principles at work in nature, according to ...

New model predicts maximum tree height across the US

Jul 18, 2011

The next time you're outdoors, see if you can spot the tallest tree. If you're in the desert Southwest, this may be an easy task — trees there are few and far between, and tend to hunch low to the ground to conserve ...

Climate change may speed up forests' life cycles

Sep 11, 2013

Many climate studies have predicted that tree species will respond to global warming by migrating via seed dispersal to cooler climates. But a new study of 65 different species in 31 eastern states finds evidence of a different, ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

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.