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Forests in the eastern United States seem to be on steroids. They’re growing faster in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, two to four times faster according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. It won’t be long-term sustainable according to one of the study’s authors, Dr. Geoffery G. Parker. Eventually growth will outpace availability of water and nutrients, said Parker in an interview with the New York Times.
Parker’s research and his conclusions are based his monitoring of 55 stands of eastern hardwoods in Maryland over a 23 year period. His study indicates that the local forest is adapting to the rise in carbon dioxide (levels are 12% higher in that area than 22 years ago when Parker first started keeping track) by absorbing more CO2 and growing like a teenage boy on summer vacation–in other words, significantly faster. According to the Times, “Dr. Parker said he had ruled out all causes for the sustained nature of the recent growth except for warmer temperatures, a longer growing season and the rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
Parker and the study’s co-authors only have data for Maryland–they are hoping to corroborate their data with data from other scientists working in other parts of the country and world.