Climate Change, Acid Rain Could Be Good for Forests

Oct 20, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- After more than 20 years of research in the northern hardwood forests of Michigan, scientists at Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science have reached a surprising conclusion: Moderate increases in temperature and nitrogen from atmospheric pollution actually improve forest productivity.

Andrew Burton, an associate professor at Michigan Tech and head of the National Institute for Climatic Change Research's Midwestern Regional Center, is part of a team of researchers that has been monitoring and measuring the temperature, moisture levels and nitrogen deposited by acid rain or varying levels of experimental nitrogen at four forest sites ranging from northwestern to southern Michigan since 1987. He's found that the trees grow faster at higher temperatures and store more carbon at greater concentrations of nitrogen, a chemical constituent of acid rain, providing there is sufficient moisture.

"It may well be that increasing temperature and nitrogen deposition are good things, up to a point," Burton said.

The rise in temperature is extending the growing season, he explained. So far, Burton and colleagues have measured 10 to 11-day longer growing seasons. “Our growing season isn't that long in the first place,” he pointed out, “so 10 or 11 days is significant.”

A longer growing season could benefit the timber industry, enabling them to harvest more wood. Now that woody biomass is being investigated as an alternative energy source by Michigan Tech and others, increased forest productivity could become a critical factor.

The research, which started out as an acid rain study in 1987, has grown into one of the longest continuous research studies supported by the National Science Foundation. A new five-year grant of $151,628 will fund the research through 2012.

“It is really unusual to receive NSF funding for nearly 20 years,” Burton remarked.

The latest grant will fund ongoing measurements tree growth and the the build-up of organic matter in the soil at the four sites: near Twin Lakes in the northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, at Pellston, near Petoskey, Mich., at Mesick, near Traverse City, and north of Grand Rapids near the Silver Lake Sand Dunes in southern Michigan.

Burton and his fellow researchers, Don Zak at the University of Michigan and Kurt Pregitzer at the University of Nevada-Reno, want to discover if the increased annual growth of the forests is offset by an increase in tree mortality. They also will examine whether the woody debris on the forest floor will decompose more slowly as nitrogen levels are increased, further increasing the ecosystem’s ability to store carbon.

Burton calls the new work “a window into the future,” an opportunity to see if there is a tipping point beyond which increased nitrogen harms rather than helps the forests.

Provided by Michigan Technological University

Explore further: Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate

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User comments : 9

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MikeB
3.8 / 5 (12) Oct 20, 2008
Burton just doesn't understand. He MUST find some BAD consequences of global warming or the funding will stop.
Velanarris
3.8 / 5 (12) Oct 20, 2008
Between this and http://www.physor...391.html could we be looking at logical science taking hold in climatology? One can only hope.
GrayMouser
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2008
Between this and http://www.physor...391.html could we be looking at logical science taking hold in climatology? One can only hope.


No, they're only giving you their April Fool's Day headlines a little early.
deatopmg
5 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2008
rates a 5 for great work and a report risky to Burton's career.

Too bad, it's been cooling for last ~10 yrs that's one reason why the climate doomsters have switched from Anthropogenic Global Warming to AG Change, so they won't appear to be wrong. What is it; CO2 driven warming or CO2 driven change?
Velanarris
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 21, 2008
rates a 5 for great work and a report risky to Burton's career.

Too bad, it's been cooling for last ~10 yrs that's one reason why the climate doomsters have switched from Anthropogenic Global Warming to AG Change, so they won't appear to be wrong. What is it; CO2 driven warming or CO2 driven change?
It's the same rhetoric switch they did in the 70's when global cooling stopped and the temperature started increasing.

"CO2 must be the enemy because we've already spent billions of dollars of your money setting up an anti-carbon infrastructure."
MikeB
5 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2008
Can you imagine the comments here, if I had said, "Climate Change, Acid Rain Could Be Good for Forests." ?
GrayMouser
5 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2008
Can you imagine the comments here, if I had said, "Climate Change, Acid Rain Could Be Good for Forests." ?


Nobody expects the Weather Inquisition!
Velanarris
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2008
Can you imagine the comments here, if I had said, "Climate Change, Acid Rain Could Be Good for Forests." ?


I think I did say it once. 130 comments later, it looks like I'm right.
MikeB
5 / 5 (2) Oct 26, 2008
Newsflash!!!

Global Warming and Climate Change Will Be Good For Earth And Her People!

Recent research has found that the warming predicted by Global Climate Models will create an age of prosperity unprecedented in human history. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been declared unnecessary and irrelevant. It has been found that the addition of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere has held off the expected ice age, and has also contributed greatly to the greening of the planet. "Why do you think that the farms of the world are producing such bountiful harvests," asked Al Gore, "it's because of the beneficial impacts of CO2 an important trace gas."

It's a wonderful life, it's a wonderful world. :)