Innovative Study Links Satellite & Climate Data to Water-Stunted Tree Growth

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 16 January 2019


Forest Trees Respond to 20th Century Temperature Change
Forest Trees Respond to 20th Century Temperature Change, Graphic Credit to Flurin Babst, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zurich.
Caption & Key. Graphic Credit to Flurin Babst, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zurich.


Innovative Study Links Satellite & Climate Data with Tree Growth

Water, not temperature, limits global forest growth as climate warms,
University of Arizona, January 16, 2018.


“The growth of forest trees all over the world is becoming more water-limited as the climate warms...”

“The effect is most evident in northern climates and at high altitudes where the primary limitation on tree growth had been cold temperatures...”

"Our study shows that across the vast majority of the land surface, trees are becoming more limited by water..."

"This is the first time that anybody has projected the tree growth responses to climate at a near-global scale."

Tree Ring Growth
“The researchers compared the annual growth rings of trees during two time periods, 1930-1960 and 1960-1990. The growth rings are wider when conditions are better, narrower when conditions are worse. The ring-width measurements were taken from trees at about 2,700 sites spanning every continent except Antarctica.”

Against Temperatures
“For those two time periods, the team also mapped average temperature, precipitation and measures of drought stress on plants onto a grid covering the world's temperate and boreal regions.”

Growth Effect of Climate Change
“Adding tree-ring data to the map allowed scientists to see whether the changes in climate during the 20th century corresponded to the changes in growth of the world's trees.”

Vast Growth of Temp-Limited Forests
“Comparing 1930-1960 with 1960-1990, the average temperature increased 0.9 degrees F (0.5 degrees C) and the land area where tree growth was primarily limited by temperature shrank by 3.3 million square miles (8.7 million square kilometers), an area about the size of Brazil. ”

A Source of Tree Mortality
"Reduced growth is indicative of increased stress on plants--which can be linked to mortality."

A New, Valuable Perspective
“...because the team's research combines the substantial database of growth data from tree rings all over the world with global climate data for the same time period, the new results will help test and improve computer models of how climate affects vegetation.”


Graphic Caption
“The growth of forest trees in temperate and boreal regions became more limited by water rather than temperature as the 20th century warmed. The more orange-red the area on the map, the more tree growth in that region became limited by water availability. The bluer the area, the less water-limited the trees became.”




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 climate change, climate, warming, limiting, forest growth


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