Forests could benefit when fall color comes late

Jan 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: Japan to continue scientific whaling in Pacific: reports

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nutrient-rich forests absorb more carbon

Apr 14, 2014

The ability of forests to sequester carbon from the atmosphere depends on nutrients available in the forest soils, shows new research from an international team of researchers including the International ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

NASA's OCO-2 brings sharp focus on global carbon

Apr 03, 2014

Simply by breathing, humans have played a small part in the planet-wide balancing act called the carbon cycle throughout our existence. However, in the last few hundred years, we have taken a larger role. ...

Recommended for you

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

43 minutes ago

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

11 hours ago

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.