Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Handful of Heavyweight Trees Per Acre Are Forest Champs

04.05.2012
Big trees three or more feet in diameter accounted for nearly half the biomass measured at a Yosemite National Park site, yet represented only one percent of the trees growing there.

This means just a few towering white fir, sugar pine and incense cedars per acre at the Yosemite site are disproportionately responsible for photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into plant tissue and sequestering that carbon in the forest, sometimes for centuries, according to James Lutz, a University of Washington research scientist in environmental and forest sciences. He's lead author of a paper on the largest quantitative study yet of the importance of big trees in temperate forests being published online May 2 on PLoS ONE.

"In a forest comprised of younger trees that are generally the same age, if you lose one percent of the trees, you lose one percent of the biomass," he said. "In a forest with large trees like the one we studied, if you lose one percent of the trees, you could lose half the biomass."

In 2009, scientists including Lutz reported that the density of large-diameter trees declined nearly 25 percent between the 1930s and 1990s in Yosemite National Park, even though the area was never logged. Scientists including co-author Andrew Larson of the University of Montana, also have found notable numbers of large trees dying in similar areas across the West.

Because of this, scientists have been keen to study a plot large enough to detect forest ecosystem changes involving large trees, including the effects of climate variability and change, possible culprits in the declines, Lutz said.

The new 63-acre study site in the western part of Yosemite National Park is one of the largest, fully-mapped plots in the world and the largest old-growth plot in North America. The tally of what's there, including the counting and tagging of 34,500 live trees, was done by citizen scientists, mainly undergraduate college students, led by Lutz, Larson, Mark Swanson of Washington State University and James Freund of the UW.

Included was all above-ground biomass such as live trees, snags, downed woody debris, litter and what's called duff, the decaying plant matter on the ground under trees. Even when big trees die, they continue to dominate biomass in different ways. For example, 12 percent of standing snags were the remains of large-diameter trees, but still accounted for 60 percent of the total biomass of snags.

Live and dead biomass totaled 280 tons per acre (652 metric tons per hectare), a figure unmatched by any other forest in the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science network, a global network of 42 tropical and temperate forest plots including the one in Yosemite.

Trees in the western U.S. with trunks more than three feet across are typically at least 200 years old. Many forests that were heavily harvested in the 19th and 20th centuries, or those that are used as commercial forest lands today, don't generally have large-diameter trees, snags or large wood on the ground.

One implication of the research is that land managers may want to pay more attention to existing big trees, the co-authors said. Last year in the Yosemite National Park, for example, managers planning to set fires to clear out overgrown brush and densely packed small trees first used data from the study plot to figure out how many large trees to protect.

"Before the fires were started, crews raked around some of the large trees so debris wouldn't just sit and burn at the base of the tree and kill the cambium, the tissue under the bark that sustains trees," Lutz said.

In some younger forests that lack big trees, citizens and land managers might want to consider fostering the growth of a few big-trunked trees, Lutz said.

Another finding from the new work is that forest models based either on scaling theory or competition theory, which are useful for younger, more uniform forests, fail to capture how and where large trees occur in forests.

"These trees started growing in the Little Ice Age," Lutz said. "Current models can't fully capture the hundreds of years of dynamic processes that have shaped them during their lifetimes."

The research was funded by the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science.

For more information:
Lutz, 206-616-3827, jlutz@uw.edu
Facebook page for Yosemite plot
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Yosemite-Forest-Dynamics-Plot/117620576445
After embargo lifts 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET), May 2, article is available at
http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0036131
Suggested websites
Jim Lutz
http://faculty.washington.edu/jlutz/
PLos One
http://www.plosone.org/home.action
Andrew Larson
http://www.cfc.umt.edu/Personnel/Details.php?ID=1710
Homepage for Yosemite plot
http://depts.washington.edu/yfdp/
Yosemite National Park
http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm
Citizen scientists
http://depts.washington.edu/yfdp/peoplePage.php?q=2011
Mark Swanson
http://www.natural-resources.wsu.edu/people/faculty/swanson.html
Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science
http://www.ctfs.si.edu/

Sandra Hines | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

nachricht Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself
28.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>