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Surprising Science

Shooting Up

The first ever research program of its kind, involving the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and HSBC Climate Partnership, has found rapid increases in tree growth in the US.

The first ever research program of its kind, involving the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and HSBC Climate Partnership, has found rapid increases in tree growth in the US. The results of the 5-year initiative to identify and respond to the impacts of climate change, attributed the rapid increases in tree growth in the forest around the Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center in Maryland to finding increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and longer growing seasons. The report proposed a new biodiversity theory relating stress and seed-size, while also examining the effects of a changing climate in forests on other wildlife such as white-tailed deer, mice and even mosquitoes. It addressed the lack of a reliable method for estimating the carbon storage capacity of secondary forests and also reviewed how human disturbance changes the way forests take up carbon in diverse environments. Stuart Davies, director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Tropical Forest Science, says, “We know that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has shot up from 280 to 385 parts per million since the 1850’s as a result of human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The degree to which atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to increase depends, in part, on how trees respond to climate and atmospheric change — whether forests end up storing more or less carbon.”


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