Trees and climate change: Faster growth, lighter wood

by Technical University of Munich (TUM), August 14, 2018

Wood density of European trees decreasing continuously since 1870

Trees are growing more rapidly due to climate change. This sounds like good news. After all, this means that trees are storing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in their wood and hence taking away the key ingredient in global warming. But is it that simple? A team analyzed wood samples from the oldest existing experimental areas spanning a period of 150 years — and reached a surprising conclusion.

But the most important finding for practical and political aspects is that the current climate-relevant carbon sequestration of the forests is being overestimated as long as it is calculated with established but outdated wood densities. “The accelerated growth is still resulting in surplus carbon sequestration,” says Pretzsch. “But scaling up for the forests of central Europe, the traditional estimate would be to high by about ten million metric tons of carbon per year.”