Droughts have a much larger impact on the environment than was initially thought.
It seems like this is one of the few instances in which such a saying works – climate change causes drought causes climate change. This is a fact. Considering it as such, it is easy to understand while the threat of global warming is growing at an exponential rate.
Trees, as you may know, as well as plants in general, are carbon storage facilities. They breathe carbon and let out oxygen. Sounds simple enough. But there is a problem in the equation. It is already a known fact that climate change causes a wide range of nasty phenomenon around our planet.
From storms to floods and from fires to droughts, it seems like the approaching sixth mass extinction – the first one to be caused by humans – is, suddenly, much more palpable. But researchers used to think that reintroducing wetness into areas of previous drought would restart the environment as you would a plant after forgetting to water it for a few days.
But they were wrong.
Never forget that in science, the most logical of assumptions often turn out to be false. This is exactly the case with this. After a severe drought, trees are the most affected. Yet, now let’s assume that the drought in a hypothetical forest is over. And it’s been over for four years. Still, the effects of the severe dehydration of the area are being seen on the trees.
It seems that after mega droughts, trees do not reach their normal growth rate not even within four years. They are much too preoccupied with surviving with low levels of water. As it would happen with humans, trees also need time to recover after an illness.
And the main problem is that in that period of time in which they are struggling to regain their strength, their carbon storage capabilities are lowered. A new study which appeared in Thursday’s Science used readings of tree growth from 1,338 locations worldwide. The results were consistent with their theory.
The trees therefore grew 9% slower than in the times before the drought. The results was that forests did not grow fast enough to suck up enough carbon from the atmosphere, and therefore the droughts could easily reappear due to the increased emissions.
For the study, the researchers from the Environmental Institute of Princeton, said that they needed to treat trees in an equal way, so that the results could be transformed into an average to be used by administrations as a model for action.
So, it seems that the problem of climate change, if it’s not tackled properly (as it’s never been), will only grow exponentially worse.
Image source: slate.com