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Two scientific studies published today detailing the impact of climate change on plants

Global environmental changes are leading to shorter, younger trees – new study - University of Birmingham

woodland by Emese Selley on unsplash
woodland by Emese Selley on unsplash

Ongoing environmental changes are transforming forests worldwide, resulting in shorter and younger trees with broad impacts on global ecosystems, scientists say.

In a global study published in the 29 May 2020 issue of Science magazine, researchers including experts at the University of Birmingham, showed how rising temperatures and carbon dioxide have been altering the world’s forests.

These alterations are caused by increased stress and carbon dioxide fertilization and through increasing the frequency and severity of disturbances such as wildfire, drought, wind damage and other natural enemies. Combined with forest harvest, the Earth has witnessed a dramatic decrease in the age and stature of forests.

The study was led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), with analysis on changes in forest age carried out by the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR).

Dr Tom Pugh, of BIFoR, said: “This study reviews mounting evidence that climate change is accelerating tree mortality, increasingly pushing the world’s forests towards being both younger and shorter. This implies a reduction in their ability to store carbon and potentially large shifts in the mix of species that compose and inhabit these forests. This is likely to have big implications for the services those forest provide, such as mitigating climate change. Increasing rates of tree mortality driven by climate and land-use change, combined with uncertainty in the mix of species that will form the next generation, pose big challenges for conservationists and forest managers alike.”

Posted on: 29 May 2020

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