Study Finds Trees Grow Faster and Store Greater Amounts of Carbon as They Age

Posted on January 16, 2014

Tree from growth rate study

An interesting new study has found that the growth rate of many trees does not slow as they get older and larger. Instead, their growth keeps on accelerating as they age. The study analyzed data from over 600,000 trees from 403 species. These trees experiencing accelerating growth also store more carbon as they age.

Nathan Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author of the study says, "If human growth would accelerate at the same rate, we would weigh half a ton by middle age and well over a ton at retirement."

Stephenson told NPR that the study is another reason to preserve old-growth forests. He says, "Not only do they hold a lot of carbon, but they're adding carbon at a tremendous rate. And that's going to be really important to understand when we're trying to predict how the forests are going to change in the future - in the face of a changing climate or other environmental changes."

The research was published here in the journal Nature.

Photo: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Archives