Physical sciences, Earth sciences

Trees are millennial temperature gauges

Scientists have conducted climate reconstructions over millennia using the isotope signals stored in tree rings.

Finding evidence that describes past long-term climatic changes is key to understanding the future impacts of climate change on ecosystems. This data can help unravel the natural causes and human influences behind temperature shifts and help the EU prepare for potential environmental disasters.

The EU-funded EU-ISOTREC project aimed to describe the climate changes, and the physiological response of trees to environmental changes, during current and past geological periods. This was done using classic methods combined with modelling and analysis of tree-ring width, density and isotope signals, which hold information about large-scale temperature patterns.

Scientists found that the current rate of warming in the Siberian north has occurred before, millennia ago. However, they found global warming has had a greater impact on the forest ecosystems in the northern parts of central Siberia than in north-eastern Siberia.

Furthermore, during recent decades, the trees have responded physiologically to a water shortage, and this is expected to continue increasing along with regional temperatures. Consequently, project research suggests these trees will experience severe drought stress and be exposed to increased fire events as well as insect attacks.

These findings could inform tools to help develop effective strategies for managing Russian forests. Documenting the management decisions in this region means it could also be used as a European case study for managing large-scale impacts of climate change.

Source: © European Union, CORDIS, www.cordis.europa.eu
last modification: 2015-05-22 07:56:16



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