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: Two-pronged approach to boost forest carbon storage

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

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

just added

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

Offspring benefit from mum sending the right message

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers have uncovered a previously unforeseen interaction between the sexes which reveals that offspring survival is affected by chemical signals emitted from the females' eggs.

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

22 hours ago

Humans aren't alone in their ability to match a voice to a face—animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.