A new study published yesterday has been studying old growth red cedar trees in the Appalachian Mountains has found that governmental regulations, in this case the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), to help the environment, are working.
Red cedars were chosen for the study due to their environmental sensitivity, which, in part, comes from their need for moist soil. This has allowed researches to use core samples from the trees in the Appalachians to provide evidence of the state of the environment. For this purpose, researches took samples from trees between 120 and 500 years old for enough data to understand the trends.
The data shows that there have been significant changes in the amount of isotopes of sulfur and carbon in the trees. An increase in the isotope of sulfur has been correlated to an increase in pollution and an increase in the isotope of carbon has been correlated with the stoma of the trees being closed or restricted. The stoma of the leaves of a plant is how it breaths. On the underside of a leaf are thousands of tiny stoma which take in carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen from the air as it uses them to grow. Whether the stoma are open or closed tells us how well the trees are enchanting carbon dioxide in the air, less open meaning less exchange is happening, which means less carbon is being taken out of the atmosphere. All of which is important for our air quality and has an impact on the warming of our planet.
Since the EPA’s Clean Air Act was enforced, in the 1970’s, the core samples of the trees show a marked improvement in the pollution of the environment. This is indicated by a decline of the isotopes of sulfur as well as the isotopes of carbon, which also indicates that the trees are breathing better; which means taking more carbon out of the air. This new study shows that the EPA’s regulations have directly impacted the environment, working to improve it.
There was a period of time before the 1980’s that showed improvement of pollutants in the geographical area around the trees, the 1930’s. The Great Depression saw the suppression, or closing, of many coal burning power plants in the Ohio Valley region, where the red cedar trees are found, and with the closing of these power plants, as well as less burning of coal, we see indications that the trees began doing better.
Since the implementation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act, scientists now have more proof that government and human intervention has an immediate and lasting impact on the environment. A year after the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, it is clearly detectable that the red cedar of the Appalachians began to grow faster and stronger. In fact, this native tree has again began taking over the forrest as it once had, another indication that the trees, as well as the whole Ohio River Valley, is improving.
Jesse Nippert, associate professor at Kansa State University in the Department of Biology, and co-author of this study, stated, “There are two levels of significance in this research. One is in terms of how we interpret data from tree rings and how we interpret the physiology of trees. The other level of significance is that environmental legislation can have a tremendous impact on an entire ecosystem.”
Not only has this new study shown the effectiveness of environmental legislation, it has shown that the EPA’s work has directly impacted our environment for the better. This all seems to be rather good news, especially as we continue to move forward in reducing the human carbon footprint in the world.
By Iam Bloom