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Forests advance with warming climate

Nov. 10, 2011 at 4:38 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Evergreen trees at the edge of Alaska's tundra are growing faster, suggesting forests may be reacting and adapting to rapidly warming climate, researchers say.

Scientists from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said while forests elsewhere are thinning from wildfires, insect damage and droughts partially attributed to global warming, some white spruce trees in the far north of Alaska have grown more vigorously in the last hundred years, especially since 1950.

"I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures," study lead author Laia Andreu-Hayles said. "What we found was a surprise."

The added growth is happening as the arctic experiences rapid warming. While global temperatures since the 1950s rose 1.6 degrees F, parts of the northern latitudes warmed 4 to 5 degrees F, a Columbia release said Thursday.

"For the moment, warmer temperatures are helping the trees along this part of the forest-tundra border," said study coauthor Kevin Anchukaitis, a tree-ring scientist at Lamont. "It's a fairly wet, fairly cool, site overall, so those longer growing seasons allow the trees to grow more."

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