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Tropical trees may not be the carbon sink planet scientists have been hoping for

Posted December 17, 2014

A team of researchers with members from institutions in the Netherlands, Bolivia and the U.K. has found that tree ring samples taken from tropical forests show no evidence of faster growth over the past 150 years—a sign that such trees may not be the carbon sink planet scientists have been hoping for. The team has published their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience. Lucas Cernusak, of James Cook University in Australia, offers a News & Views perspective piece in the same journal issue, on the work done by the team.

Increase in CO2 has not stimulated growth of tropical trees

Cameroon (Korup National Park) Terminalia ivorensis. Credit: Peter Groenendijk

For many years, planet scientists have believed that trees in the tropics would grow more if there was more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would result in them taking in more of the gas—and that would, they hoped, offset some of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by us humans, thereby staving off, at a least a little bit, global warming. But now the researchers with this new effort report that that may not be the case.

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