USGS Western Ecological Research Center

Home Who We Are Where We Are What We Do Products Search Outreach Jobs Contacts

Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size

Released: 2014
Citation:
Stephenson, NL, AJ Das, R Condit, SE Russo, PJ Baker, NG Beckman, DA Coomes, ER Lines, WK Morris, N Rüger, E Álvarez, C Blundo, S Bunyavejchewin, G Chuyong, SJ Davies, Á Duque, CN Ewango, O Flores, JF Franklin, HR Grau, Z Hao, ME Harmon, SP Hubbell, D Kenfack, Y Lin, JR Makana, A Malizia, LR Malizia, RJ Pabst, N Pongpattananurak, SH Su, IF Sun, S Tan, D Thomas, PJ van Mantgem, X Wang, SK Wiser, MA Zavala. 2014. Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size. Nature, 507. doi: 10.1038/nature12914

Forests are major components of the global carbon cycle, providing substantial feedback to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Our ability to understand and predict changes in the forest carbon cycle—particularly net primary productivity and carbon storage—increasingly relies on models that represent biological processes across several scales of biological organization, from tree leaves to forest stands. Yet, despite advances in our understanding of productivity at the scales of leaves and stands, no consensus exists about the nature of productivity at the scale of the individual tree, in part because we lack a broad empirical assessment of whether rates of absolute treemass growth (and thus carbon accumulation)decrease, remain constant, or increase as trees increase in size and age. Here we present a global analysis of 403 tropical and temperate tree species, showing that for most species mass growth rate increases continuously with tree size. Thus, large, old trees do not act simply as senescent carbon reservoirs but actively fix large amounts of carbon compared to smaller trees; at the extreme, a single big tree can add the same amount of carbon to the forest within a year as is contained in an entire mid-sized tree. The apparent paradoxes of individual tree growth increasing with tree size despite declining leaf-level and stand-level productivity can be explained, respectively, by increases in a tree’s total leaf area that outpace declines in productivity per unit of leaf area and, among other factors, age-related reductions in population density. Our results resolve conflicting assumptions about the nature of tree growth, inform efforts to understand and model forest carbon dynamics, and have additional implications for theories of resource allocation and plant senescence.

Press Release:
http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3781

Blog Post:
http://www.werc.usgs.gov/outreach.aspx?RecordID=199




The following files are related to this product:
Some files associated with this product may require the ability to read Portable Document Format (PDF) documents; the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.
FileFileSize
nature12914.pdf1,762,848 Bytes
nature12914-s1.pdf275,555 Bytes


Bookmark and Share

Share


Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: webmaster@werc.usgs.gov

References to non-U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) products do not constitute an endorsement by the DOI.

* DOI and USGS link policies apply.