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Climate Change Will Limit How Much Carbon Forests Take Up, New Research Shows


Pexels Governments are increasingly looking to forests to draw down carbon pollution, but worsening droughts threaten to stunt tree growth, while larger wildfires and insect infestations risk decimating woodlands, two new studies show.

The first study , published in the journal Science , challenges thinking that rising carbon dioxide levels will spur forests to grow faster by fueling photosynthesis. A survey of tree ring data in the U.S. and Europe found no link between photosynthesis and growth. However, scientists found, trees were highly sensitive to drought, suggesting that more frequent and severe dry spells expected with climate change will slow forest growth, limiting how much carbon trees take up.

The second study , published in Ecology Letters , finds that rising emissions will lead not only to more intense dry spells, but also to more insects killing drought-afflicted trees, as is happening with bark beetles across the American West. More pernicious than either of these threats, however, is the risk of wildfires, which are expected to grow fourfold by the end of this century if temperatures rise by 3.6 degrees C (6.5 degrees F), the middle climate scenario explored in the study. Threats to U.S. forests if temperatures rise 3.6 degrees […]

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